How Alcohol Affects Your Teeth

Most of us know what alcohol can do to the body and the brain – especially the liver. But how does alcohol affect your teeth, gums, and other oral tissues?

Our first question likely will be, “How much alcohol are we talking about?”alcoholic drinks-pixabay cco - 2578446 640

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines moderate alcohol use as one drink per day for a woman and no more than two drinks per day for a man. They define heavy drinking as more than 8 drinks per week for women and more than 15 drinks per week for men.

Two things to keep in mind:

  1. Gum disease, mouth sores, and tooth decay are all far more likely for heavy drinkers.
  2. Alcohol abuse is the second most common risk factor for oral cancer.

What are the effects?

One study concluded that red wine kills the oral bacteria streptococci, which is a factor in tooth decay. People with alcohol use disorder seem to have higher levels of plaque on their teeth. They are also at triple the risk of permanent tooth loss. But what about moderate drinkers?

  • Tooth staining. The color in beverages is from chromogens, which attach to tooth enamel that has been thinned by the acid in alcohol and stain the teeth. One possible preventive step is to use a straw when drinking alcoholic beverages. Mixing alcohol with dark-colored soda or consuming red wine can stain or discolor your teeth. Beer, like wine, is acidic and affects the tooth enamel. Darker beers are more likely to stain your teeth due to the dark barley and malts in dark beer.
  • Dry Mouth. Beverages that are high in alcohol tend to dry your mouth. This removes the saliva that keeps your teeth moist and helps to remove bacteria and plaque from your teeth. Many people try to overcome the dryness by quickly consuming another drink. But this simple makes your mouth dryer. Instead, you need to drink a lot of water while you are consuming alcohol.
  • Other effects. By chewing the ice in your drinks, you increase the risk of damage from consuming alcohol. Chewing ice can break or chip a tooth. If you add lemon or lime to your drink, you add an acidic agent that can erode tooth enamel.

Before you consume the next alcoholic beverage, your teeth will be thankful if you take steps to protect your teeth and gums.