One of the questions my patients often ask at my Fontana dental office is, “Doc, does drinking beer, wine or a mixed drink affect my teeth?”
The affects of alcohol on teeth
Scientific evidence has shown that people who suffer from alcohol dependency tend to have higher plaque levels on their teeth and are three times as likely to suffer from permanent tooth loss. Also, studies have linked excessive alcohol consumption with oral cancer. In fact, the risk of oral cancer is six times higher in those who drink alcohol compared to non-drinkers.
Alcoholic beverages can cause dehydration. Any one that has had a couple of drinks knows how thirsty it can make them feel. Since saliva is protective to the teeth and helps wash away harmful bacteria, excessive use of alcohol can cause cavities. To learn more about how a dry mouth can negatively impact your oral health, read Dry Mouth and Your Teeth.
In addition, alcohol can lead to acid reflux or heart burn. Stomach acids can creep up into the mouth especially during sleep and cause the teeth to erode and decay.
Furthermore, alcohol has sugars that when broken down by the oral bacteria can lead to an acidic oral environment, making one more susceptible to cavities.
Colored alcoholic beverages, such as red wine, can also cause teeth to stain. This does not mean gin and vodka are better choices. Although staining does not permanently damage enamel, a discolored smile may affect one’s self confidence. Red wine drinkers may prefer to have more frequent dental cleanings and perhaps teeth whitening trays made.
What if I want to have a drink?
I usually tell patients that it is a good idea for them to rinse their mouth with water or milk directly after consuming alcohol and not to brush their teeth for at least 30 minutes after their last drink. This simple step will help reduce the acids in the mouth.
In conclusion, alcoholic beverages consumed in moderation (one a day) shouldn’t have any detrimental effects on teeth.