Many of us are social drinkers and we even hold the comforting mantra that a glass of wine or alcohol is isn’t bad after all. There is a widely held belief that a little alcohol is actually good for health, especially for your heart condition.
Alcohol has its social benefits but when it comes to its “healthy” side, a lot of things that we believe have never been passed through some rigorous assessment. Even a little alcohol for the sanctimonious “social drinker” can have some health impact. An area that is rarely explored is the impact of adult drinks, primarily alcoholic, on our dental health. We all know it is bad for the liver but is it good for your teeth and gums?
The impact here can be as adverse as well depending on the alcohol consumed and the degree to which it is consumed. They may not be direct but some of these side effects are eventually going to hit home if you consume alcohol long enough.
The Dental Problems Caused by Alcohol
There is a vast variety of alcoholic drinks and depending on their characteristics, each of them can pose unique sets of dental risks. Not all alcoholic drinks are equally harmful. Some might have a mild impact while others can be quite harmful for your dental health. It all boils down to the concentration of alcohol in the drink and the type of ingredients used in the alcoholic drink. Alcoholic drinks can be harmful to your teeth in multiple ways:
Beer may give you less sleepless nights but if you are consuming plenty of sugary alcoholic drinks such as wine, cocktails or even sweetened lager or liqueur such as creamy liqueur, you might be exposing your teeth to startling amounts of sugar content and these may end up damaging your teeth.
Alcoholic cocktails are usually the biggest culprits. They contain plenty of ingredients that may be harmful for your dental health such as sodas, sugar, juices and various kinds of mixes. There are also alcoholic drinks such as sweetened vodka that contain a certain amount of sugar for enhanced flavour.
If you enjoy these, it is time to be a little more conscious about the amount of sugar that you are consuming from your favorite lager, vodka or cocktails. Take deliberate steps to protect your teeth such as by rinsing your mouth after taking alcohol or by opting for less sugary cocktails. Instead of a sweetened cocktail, you can for example opt to take your whisky with some lime.
Some alcoholic drinks contain some colour which can stain your teeth. The colour used in the beverage attaches itself to the tooth enamel and stains the teeth over time. This is especially potent in an alcoholic drink because the acid in the alcohol weakens the enamel surface and makes it more porous. It will therefore readily absorb the colouring in the drink.
Some dentists recommend drinking such beverages with a straw but the efficacy of the straw in minimising contact between your teeth surface and the beverage is debatable. A more efficient way to minimise the staining is by changing your preferences. Instead of dark-coloured alcoholic drinks, start going for the lighter coloured ones. You should also make it a habit to rinse your mouth and teeth after a drink. While staining is common with wines, dark barley can also be bad for your teeth since beer is just as acidic.
The Acidic Effect
All adult beverages have an unhealthy amount of acids that may pose a threat to your dental health. Normal citrus-based fruit juices already have high amounts of acids and it gets worse when it comes to alcoholic drinks. All acids have a corrosive effect so when they come into contact with your teeth, they will corrode the enamel and increase the sensitivity of your teeth. The rate of corrosion always depends on the concentration of the acids in the drink. Highly acidic drinks are likely to corrode the enamel of your teeth at a faster rate and the damage is not reversible. Like with sugary or coloured drinks, always make it a point to rinse your teeth after a drink in order to mitigate the corrosive effect on your teeth.
Dry Mouth Effect
Drinks with high alcohol content will generally dry the mouth. Your mouth needs to be as hydrated as possible with saliva because it provides an important biological function. Not only does the saliva help in keeping the teeth moist, it also contains elements that help get rid of bacteria in the mouth and plaque on your teeth.
Teeth Damage from Ice Chewing
Ice cubes are an integral part of any well-made cocktail. We don’t generally let the ice melt. In any case, they take too long to melt and it also feels nice to chew the ice as you are imbibing on your favorite drink. However, chewing the ice can have a devastating impact on your teeth. You may not realise it but as you are chewing on the cold and hard ice, you are also cracking your teeth. However, the cracks are too tiny to notice, at least initially. With time, they are going to destroy the crown of your teeth.
Dental Awareness When Drinking
Next time you are heading out to drink, you need to think more than just about your breathalyzer cut-off levels. It is important to consider how “tooth-friendly” your alcoholic drink is. How much acid does it contain? Does it have too much sugar? Does it have too much coloring? How is it served? You should also develop good post-drinking dental care habits in order to maintain healthy teeth.