The Effect of Alcohol on Teeth

With holiday gatherings, office parties, and families in The Woodlands getting together, this time of year usually means most of us are toasting each other a bit more or indulging in mixers, wine, or eggnog. But how does alcohol affect your mouth—most specifically, your teeth and gums?

Alcoholic drinks can be quite harsh on your smile in a few different ways:

Stain and Discoloration: Tooth stain is more common when you drink dark-colored beverages than in clear liquids. Such as red wine. You want to consider the impact of your drink choices especially if you’ve invested in teeth whitening, cosmetic veneers, or other smile makeover treatment. Our teeth are porous by nature, so they tend to pick up stains from foods and drinks that we enjoy. Even the best tooth brushing regimen won’t stop stain particles from getting trapped inside our enamel or the margins of our dental work. This can be said of drinking any dark beverage, not just alcoholic ones.

Dry Mouth: Alcohol is a natural drying agent. When you drink alcoholic beverages, it reduces saliva flow and causes dry mouth (xerostomia). If you already suffer from xerostomia, alcohol consumption can make your symptoms worse. You might notice a sticky, dry feeling in your mouth the next morning, which a lot of people refer to as “cotton mouth”. Unfortunately, xerostomia significantly raises your risk of tooth decay. Since dry mouth can also be caused by certain medications, be sure to watch your alcohol intake and always rinse your mouth out with water afterward.

Tooth Decay: Dry mouth, sugar, sweeteners, and syrups make alcoholic beverages a huge cavity risk. Especially when you’re sipping on them over a prolonged period. Since liquids coat every surface of your smile, it can lead to erosion in hard-to-reach spaces that you might not be cleaning every day. Just like soda, sweeter drinks should be limited. It’s always best to drink them with your meal instead of alone so that some of the food can help neutralize the acids and sugars in your mouth.

Tips for Reducing Dry Mouth, Cavities

Alcohol can dry out your mouth and alter pH levels, impacting your tooth enamel. Drinking alcohol for prolonged periods will eventually damage your teeth.

No matter what type of drink you choose, you always need to be sure that you’re drinking water between sips. This little “hack” will help cut back on staining, dry mouth, and cavities. When possible, try to rinse your mouth out with water afterward as well.

Adding a fluoride rinse into your nightly oral hygiene routine will help counteract acid exposures you’ve encountered throughout the day. When fluoride is applied after brushing and flossing, it helps remineralize weak points in your mouth to reduce the occurrence of tooth decay. Make sure not to eat or drink anything afterward.
Last, but not least: If you suspect that someone you love is an alcoholic, getting sober is what’s most important. To find an Alcoholics Anonymous support group near you, visit www.AA.org.

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