Oral health is one of the main components of a person’s overall well-being. Over the past 50 years, the United States has made much progress in understanding common oral diseases like dental caries–or tooth decay– and periodontal diseases, also known as gum disease. The fact that we now have a much better understanding of the roots of these problems as well as how to avoid them has greatly improved our overall oral health, and people continue to improve upon it. One aspect of oral health that is still a bit controversial is the effect that alcohol has on our dental health.
While a lot of people think that because mouthwashes like Listerine contain alcohol to kill bacteria, then alcohol must also be good for your teeth, the truth is that alcohol can actually cause a lot of harm. For one, alcohol contains a lot of sugar. This sugar can be very damaging to your teeth. Add to that the fact that alcohol has a dehydrating effect on your mouth, which dries up your saliva, and you have a pretty bad defense against bacteria. Saliva protects your teeth from corrosive substances, and when the saliva in your mouth dries out, your teeth lose that protection.
Another effect that alcohol can have on your teeth is discoloration. Dark drinks like beer can lead to severe tooth discoloration that appears as yellowish or brown spots on your teeth. Dark beers tend to cause more discoloration than their lighter counterparts.
Alcohol can also cause structural damage to your teeth. This kind of damage is usually due to the wearing of your enamel. Our teeth have a protective layer around them that helps protect against tooth sensitivity and keeps the darker underlayer of your teeth from showing. The acids contained in certain types of alcohol like beer and wine are corrosive substances and cause your enamel to decay and eventually disappear. There is no possible way to create more enamel for your teeth, so once your enamel has suffered sufficient decay, you are essentially exposing yourself to painful experiences every time you drink a cold beverage or sip a hot cup of anything.
Alcohol can also cause damage to your dental health by destroying the good bacteria that is already in your mouth and leaving your teeth and gums vulnerable to infection and disease. Alcohol is a powerful antibacterial substance, so much so, that it will most likely kill any and all bacteria it touches. Unfortunately for your mouth, this means it will also kill the bacteria that help fight against other bacteria. Our bodies are full of good bacteria that protect us against diseases, and your mouth is full of bacteria as well. So while you might think you’re doing your mouth a favor by disinfecting it, that may not be exactly true. In fact, the presence of good bacteria in heavy drinkers’ mouths is usually low to non-existent, but the presence of bacteria that cause irritation of the gums is higher in heavy drinkers than any other people.
All in all, there are a couple of things you can do to prevent the negative effects of alcohol on your teeth. These things include brushing your teeth after drinking in order to get rid of the corrosive acids, drinking lots of water so your gums and the rest of your body can stay hydrated, and attend your dentist regularly in order to keep your oral health in check. Other tricks include chewing some sugarless gum in between drinks to increase the production of saliva in your mouth to keep your teeth protected.