What alcohol does to your teeth - savina dental clinics malta and gozo

If you are reading this piece, you are probably wondering what kind of effects alcohol is likely to have on your teeth. The answer to this question depends on two things. First, is how well you take care of your teeth. And most importantly, how much alcohol you drink.

Myths about alcohol consumption demystified

Alcohol does not affect your oral health

Most people who drink alcohol are not aware that it can compromise their oral health. Surprisingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks alcohol as the second most common cause of various types of oral cancer. The rate of plaque build-up in heavy alcohol users is higher than average.

Drinking alcohol with citrus is healthy

There is a huge misconception that drinking alcohol with citrus is healthy. When you squeeze a slice of lemon into an alcoholic drink, you increase its acidity. And this is detrimental to your enamel and oral health in general.

Beer does not stain your teeth

Many coloured beverages, such as beer and red wine, can easily stain your teeth.

Alcohol cleans your teeth and protects you from cavities

Heavy alcohol drinkers are more likely to develop cavities than teetotallers. Dental experts attribute this to the sugars and acidity present in alcoholic drinks and mixers added to them. That said, alcohol does not protect or cleanse your teeth.

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How alcohol use affects your oral health

Dehydration

When you drink an alcoholic drink for a long time without sipping water, your body becomes dehydrated. As a result, your mouth becomes dry. And this environment promotes the growth of bad bacteria. The bacteria coupled with the acidity in the alcohol creates an environment that encourages cavities.

Dryness

Like we said earlier, alcohol leads to dehydration which in turn causes dryness in your mouth. And when your mouth is dry, you not only develop bad breath but it also becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. Remember, your saliva contains some proteins with antibacterial properties. And when your mouth is dry, it is not properly protected from harmful elements. Therefore, the risk of developing cavities and periodontal disease increases.

Staining

Alcohol comes in various varieties. For instance, wine lovers can enjoy red or white varieties. Apart from that, some beers are heavily coloured. When you drink coloured alcoholic beverages for a long time, they are likely to stain your teeth. You may have to book an appointment with your dental hygienist to removes these stains and for severe cases require a professional teeth whitening treatment.

Enamel erosion

Alcoholic beverages are acidic. And acids wear out the enamel. If you are a heavy drinker, the alcohol erodes your enamel at a high rate. Unfortunately, when your enamel is damaged, there is no way to repair it. To prevent this from happening, do not drink alcohol with soft drinks because they only make it worse. The level of acid shoots up when you do so as the sugars promote the multiplication of bad bacteria.

Tooth decay

Alcohol dehydrates your body, and if you drink for a long time without rehydrating, your mouth becomes dry. When this happens, you lack enough saliva to fend off bacteria and balance the PH in your body. Apart from that, a cocktail of a sweet alcoholic drink comes with a lot of sugars. And the bacteria in your mouth thrive in such an environment. Your mouth becomes acidic and the enamel starts to erode, leading to tooth decay.

Cancer

Excessive use of alcohol can lead to oral cancer. Some of the common cancers that emanate from alcohol are the throat and cancer of the mouth.

Most cancers are caused by heavy drinking and prolonged use of tobacco. This means that if you are a heavy drinker, you increase your chances of developing oral cancer. How does this happen? When you drink alcohol regularly, it reduces the protective lining in your throat and mouth. This makes your mouth more susceptible to carcinogenic elements hence oral cancer.

Related reading: 15 Minute OncAlert™ Oral Cancer Testing

How to protect your teeth when drinking alcohol

Drink your alcohol with water

If you must drink alcohol, drink water between sips or at least drink a glass of water after one alcoholic drink. This will keep you hydrated. As such, your mouth will not become dry.

With a good supply of saliva, your mouth will be well protected from acidity and hundreds of harmful bacteria.

Brush twice a day and floss regularly

floss between all your teeth

If you have a drinking habit, you also want to practice good oral hygiene. See to it that you brush your teeth properly and replace your toothbrush every three months. To attain excellent oral hygiene, brush your teeth twice a day, and floss regularly.

Drink light beer, gin, and tonic, or cava

Alcoholic beverages are not the same, while some contain lots of sugars and colour, some do not. If you are going to drink regularly, drink light beer, gin, and tonic, or cava. The objective is to limit the number of harmful elements in alcohol from coming into contact with your teeth.

Consider drinking through a straw

Drinking alcohol through a straw will keep the elements that can cause decay and other damages to your teeth at bay. These are the likes of sugar as well as acidity. When these are limited to coming in direct contact with your enamel, then the chances of eroding it decreases significantly.

Visit your dentist regularly

Visiting your dentist regularly is one of the best ways to protect your teeth, especially if you love your alcohol. Your dentist can monitor what is happening in your mouth and advise you accordingly. Moreover, they can identify some underlying problems in your mouth and resolve them before it is too late. That said, visit your dentist at least twice a year.

For the sake of your dental and general health, it is prudent to drink in moderation. And if you must drink, learn how to take better care of your mouth and keep oral diseases at bay.

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Savina Clinic – Dental & Implantology Centres are friendly, state-of-the-art practices in Malta and Gozo dedicated to comprehensive quality dental care. Savina Dental is an innovative dental practice in Malta and prides itself on the high-quality customer service, low waiting room times, attention to detail and the advanced dental technology at their disposal.

Joseph Xuereb
Principal Dental Surgeon & Owner of Savina Dental Clinics, Dr Joseph Xuereb BChD (Hons), MFGDP(UK), MGDS RCS(Eng), FFGDP RCS(UK), FICD is a general dental practitioner with a special interest in Implant and Restorative Dentistry. Dr Joseph & the teams' full biographical information can be found here.