There is nothing wrong with enjoying a cocktail or a glass of wine with family and friends every now and then. While consuming alcohol in moderation can be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle, don’t get carried away. Before you begin having the same drink every day, you should know that alcohol can have negative effects on your oral health. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about giving up your favourite drink or cocktail for the sake of your smile. Once you find out what effects these drinks can have, you will be better prepared to maintain your oral health. Here’s how alcohol affects your gums and teeth and what you should do about it.
How Your Oral Health Can Be Affected by Different Types of Alcohol
- Red Wine
- White Wine
- Apple Cider
- Cocktails and Coolers
Acids are a primary component of red wines and impact tooth enamel as it is directly exposed to them. This results in enamel erosion, and once a tooth becomes eroded, its interior becomes exposed, making it vulnerable to cavities. Red wine almost instantaneously stains teeth because of these same acids, making them appear slightly dull and discoloured. Wine also contains large amounts of compounds called chromogens. These are commonly found in tea and coffee, and also cause staining.
Though white wine boasts of being free from pigments present in red, it contains high levels of acids that can break down tooth enamel even faster. This means your teeth become more susceptible to discolouration and decay a lot faster. It also makes it easier for other drinks and foods to stain your teeth.
Like wine, drinking beer can make your pearly whites look brown or yellowish. These stains can worsen over time, especially if you drink regularly. Beer can also structurally damage your teeth. Beer being acidic, it erodes enamel and exposes the darker dentin underneath, which in turn causes sensitivity. This can result in discomfort every time you eat or drink. Although not a sweet drink, beer contains a large amount of sugar which mixes with mouth bacteria to form plaque. Brushing twice daily can help get rid of it. Failing to do so can result in a harder substance known as tartar forming. This can prevent your toothbrush bristles from effectively cleaning teeth, leading to further gum disease and infections.
Though you may find cider refreshing, it poses a real danger to gums and teeth due to its high levels of acidity. Consuming too much can wear away enamel, making teeth sensitive. Try diluting it with water to limit the damage.
Both cocktails and coolers are popular among young adults but most fail to realize how much of a risk they pose to their oral health. These drinks are packed with sugar, which slowly eats away at enamel, gradually leading to tooth decay. The longer you leave the sugar in your mouth, the worse the effects become.
How Your Oral Health is Affected
- Teeth and Alcohol
When you drink an alcoholic beverage, its sugars and acids weaken tooth enamel, just like juices and sodas. The saliva in your mouth helps wash away the sugars, but alcohol makes your mouth dry. This prevents saliva from doing its job, resulting in quicker enamel loss.
- The Tongue and Alcohol
Alcohol dehydrates the entire body, so obviously it dries out the mouth too. This drying effect can cause white tongue, a condition that occurs when papillae become inflamed and dead cells and bacteria are trapped within them. This causes a white layer to cover the entire surface of the tongue. An absence of saliva means food particles and sugars don’t get washed away effectively, which can lead to bad breath along with plaque buildup on teeth.
- Gum Disease and Alcohol
Gum disease, also referred to as periodontitis, is a result of bacterial growth in an individual’s mouth. The sugars in alcoholic drinks feed the bacteria, causing gums to become irritated. This leads to bad breath, swelling and bleeding, among other symptoms. As the condition progresses, it leads to tooth loss and loosened gum tissue.
Minimizing the Risks
Just because alcohol is bad for your oral health doesn’t mean you have to give up your beverages altogether. With regular visits to your dentist and good oral hygiene habits, you can minimize the effects of alcoholic drinks.
- Follow a Dental Care Regimen
By flossing at least once a day and brushing twice, you can remove accumulated plaque, reducing the chances of tooth decay. It is tempting to skip brushing when you have had an evening out, but refrain from doing so. That said, do not brush immediately after you have had a drink as your enamel will be soft from the alcohol and brushing may make matters worse.
- Chew Sugar-Free Gum
When heading out for a few drinks, carry sugar-free chewing gum. It helps minimize damage by stimulating saliva production to ensure your mouth doesn’t become too dry.
- Sip Water
Sip water after every alcoholic drink you consume to wash away its acids and sugars. It also keeps you hydrated and prevents dry mouth.
- Invest in Teeth Whitening
If you are concerned about having a discoloured smile, you can purchase over-the-counter teeth whitening agents. Or, ask your dentist for suggestions on how to combat it.
- See a Dental Hygienist
Take advantage of your hygienist’s services and go for intensive cleanings biannually. They are experienced at getting at hard-to-reach areas to ensure your mouth is cleaned properly. Regular deep cleaning helps maintain good oral health and prevents plaque from becoming an issue.
What we consume has a direct impact on our dental health. The same holds true for alcohol. However, there are ways to minimize the damage, if not stop it altogether. The advice listed above will go a long way towards keeping your smile shining bright.