How Bad Is Alcohol For Your Teeth?
Are you worried about how drinking alcohol is affecting your teeth? With so much contradictory information available online, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction.
From beers to cocktails, it’s true that consumption of alcoholic beverages contains a high sugar and carbohydrate content that not only increases the cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth but can also stain and damage both the front and back of enamel surfaces. There is evidence to suggest that alcohol can lead to erosion, trauma and cancer in the mouth.
Alcohol and Oral Health
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), moderate alcohol consumption is defined as one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for males. Heavy drinking is defined by the CDC as more than eight drinks per week for women and 15 or more for men.
Alcohol is a common part of social gatherings, but excessive drinking can not only have an adverse effect on your overall health, it can also affect your oral health:
- Although alcohol alone does not cause cavities, it has been found to reduce the body’s natural defences against bacteria which in turn can cause tooth decay.
- Alcohol consumption has also been linked to increased levels of acidity in the mouth which can erode tooth enamel, creating a risk for cavities.
- Excessive drinking often leads to poor nutrition and therefore carries with it an increased risk for gum inflammation and gingivitis.
Here at Fulham Road Dental, we understand that it’s important to be mindful of how much you are consuming, as too much can leave your teeth more vulnerable and open to damage.
Types of Alcohol and Their Effects on Teeth
When enjoying a beverage, many people fail to consider the consequences that alcohol may have on their teeth.
Not all types of alcohol are created equal; some varieties can be corrosive and erode the enamel or discolour your teeth over time.
It is important to keep in mind what makes up different alcoholic beverages when drinking:
Hard liquor such as whiskey and vodka can contain acids that can lead to dental erosion.
Beer and wine contain tannins, which can cause surface stains on the teeth.
Cocktails and drinks made with mixers are high in sugar content and can cause tooth decay if not enjoyed in moderation.
The Role of Sugar in Alcohol and Tooth Decay
Sugar plays an important role in many alcoholic beverages, adding sweetness and intensifying flavours. Unfortunately, the negative effects of sugar on oral health can cause serious tooth decay when consumed in excess. Although, it’s not just fructose or granulated white sugar that is responsible for dental problems: complex sugars like maltodextrin, corn syrup, and dextrose can also be damaging to your teeth.
Knowing this, it’s important to be aware of the amount of sugar found in popular alcoholic drinks and to practice moderation if any potential long-term damage is to be avoided.
The Role of Ph in Alcohol and Tooth Decay
The acidity of alcoholic beverages is determined by their pH level. Sadly, most of these drinks are highly acidic, with a pH level below 3.5. Low PH levels can erode tooth enamel and soft tissues in the mouth, leading to cavities or even periodontal disease. It’s important for people who consume alcohol to practice good oral hygiene and limit their intake of acidic drinks.
The Role of Saliva in Alcohol and Tooth Decay
Saliva plays a vital role in our body’s health and well-being, particularly when it comes to alcohol and tooth decay. As we consume alcohol, our saliva production slows, which can put us at increased risk of cavities and other unpleasant consequences.
The protective enzymes that normally work in our saliva contain antibacterial properties that help keep bacteria from growing on the surface of teeth. When saliva production is decreased due to alcohol consumption, these protective enzymes are not as available to fight against harmful bacteria and acid attacks that break down enamel.
The role of saliva in protection against dental caries is not just limited to reducing the intake of sugar through the mouth; it also eliminates counteracting acids and helps kill off plaque-causing bacteria.
The Link Between Alcohol and Gum Disease
Alcohol abuse is a major factor in the development of gum disease. Heavy drinkers tend to have weaker mouth tissues and poorer dental hygiene, leading to a higher risk of gingivitis and periodontitis.
That being said, even moderate drinking can impair our oral health. Saliva production decreases with alcohol intake, making it more difficult for our teeth and gums to refresh themselves, as saliva normally does.
Therefore, keeping alcohol at moderate levels is essential for avoiding gum diseases, in addition to other risks associated with excessive drinking such as liver damage and addiction.
The Link Between Alcohol and Oral Cancer
Alcohol consumption is widely associated with oral cancer. People who drink alcohol have a significantly higher risk of developing oral cancers, pharyngeal and laryngeal cancers compared to those who do not drink.
Heavy drinkers are at an even greater risk compared to light drinkers, and the risk multiplies when they also use tobacco products since there can be an interactive effect between the two substances.
The risk increases no matter what type of alcohol is consumed, including wine, beer and spirits.
It’s important for people to be aware of this link so they can make informed decisions about their drinking habits in order to help reduce the potential for developing a variety of diseases caused by prolonged alcohol consumption.
How to Protect Your Teeth from Alcohol Damage
Despite alcohol’s direct link to cavities, dry mouth, and tooth erosion, there are ways to help protect your teeth from alcohol damage. Make sure you include prevention as a part of your daily oral hygiene routines–
- Drink plenty of water after each drink to reduce the adhesion of acids and sugars on the enamel and cause less staining;
- Brush your teeth gently at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste for stronger protection;
- Go for dental checkups regularly to detect signs of erosion or decay in all areas of the mouth, which may be caused by alcohol.
Treating Alcohol-Related Tooth Damage
When it comes to protecting your smile and managing alcohol-related tooth damage, your dentist is an important ally.
Lingering issues such as staining, discolouration and erosion can be repaired with veneers, composite bonding and restorative dentistry. However, the most effective step is preventing further damage by limiting the consumption of acidic alcoholic beverages in order to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
If you are concerned about how much you’re drinking and how it’s affecting the health of your teeth, talking to a dentist can be a valuable starting point for finding ways to protect your smile, even when occasionally indulging in a few drinks. Contact our Fulham Road Dentist today for expert advice.