Ways Alcohol Affects Your Oral Health

Alcohol is present in many people’s lifestyles. While alcohol consumption can, indeed, be a part of a healthy lifestyle, overconsumption of alcohol can lead to numerous health issues and may even impact your oral health. Ways in which alcohol affects your oral health are numerous, including dry mouth, increased chance of gum disease, increased tooth decay, etc. And even if you opt for the best invisible aligners on the market, alcohol consumption may significantly lower their effect. Knowing the effects that alcohol may cause on your oral health may help you avoid overconsumption and maintain a healthy lifestyle. That is why this article is going to be all about informing you exactly why drinking too much alcohol is dangerous to your oral health.

Ways in which alcohol affects your oral health

Most people connect the overconsumption of alcohol to liver damage. However, alcohol can have numerous negative implications when it comes to oral health as well. The most common problems associated with alcohol overconsumption are:

  • Dry mouth
  • Teeth staining
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth decay
  • Tooth injuries
  • Oral cancer
person smiling
A healthy smile is alcohol-free!

Furthermore, alcohol can also limit the effectiveness of teeth braces and, in some cases, completely negate them. For example, if you are wearing traditional metal braces, the acid from alcohol can cause damage to the wires and brackets. Drinking in moderation (1 drink for women and 2 drinks for men per day) will usually not have many adverse effects but anything more than that will. Now, let’s take a look at exactly how alcohol interferes with your oral health.

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Alcohol causes dry mouth

The first way in which alcohol affects your oral health is through lower saliva production. Alcohol itself acts as a diuretic, which has the effect of lowering the saliva amount in your mouth. And since saliva is what neutralizes acids on teeth and washes away bacteria, lack of saliva may lead to many oral health issues such as the increased risk of decay damage, and gum disease. Furthermore, heavy alcohol consumption over a long period of time may also lead to xerostomia (also known as dry mouth).

You can minimize the effect by drinking plenty of water alongside alcohol, as well as avoiding overly alcoholic drinks. And if you are wearing braces, you will want to pay extra attention to meal planning with braces, making sure to include plenty of liquids other than alcohol (water is still the best). But the best thing you can do is to simply limit your alcohol intake.

Your teeth will stain faster due to alcohol usage

two dark beverages
Dark alcoholic beverages will heavily contribute to teeth staining.

If you happen to enjoy drinking dark-colored beverages, your teeth may stain much faster than normal. Alcoholic drinks such as red wine and dark beers have a profound impact on how fast your teeth stain over time. You can try to limit the impact by using some of the most efficient ways to whiten teeth, or you can simply limit your alcohol consumption. Alternatively, you may try to drink through a straw, bypassing the front of your teeth, or by sipping water alongside alcohol.

Overconsumption of alcohol may lead to gum disease

One of the “nastier” ways in which alcohol affects your oral health is the fact that it contributes to developing gum disease. And if you already have the disease, drinking alcohol will only worsen the symptoms. Furthermore, due to accelerated tooth decay (more on this soon), the bacteria in your mouth will spread faster and inflame your gums. This is further exacerbated if you happen to develop a dry mouth from alcohol.

Heavy drinkers also have a much greater risk of developing periodontitis (advanced gum disease), which can also lead to wobbly teeth and gum recession and can even contribute to tooth loss. Needless you say, you want to prevent gum disease to the best of your ability, as the condition places you at greater risk of other systemic diseases. Diabetes, stroke, and heart disease are all connected to gum disease in one way or another, after all. Prevention and treatment are much more preferable than having to deal with the possible aftermath.

Alcohol makes your teeth decay faster

sugar lumps representing how alcohol affects your oral health
Alcoholic drinks contain sugar, which will contribute to tooth decay.

The fact that many alcoholic drinks have a high acid and sugar content means that prolonged exposure to them will weaken your tooth enamel. Not only that, but you will also be at an increased risk of developing a significant plaque buildup.

What this means is that the bacteria that is already present in plaque will feed on the extra sugar from alcohol. This releases acids that erode the teeth’ enamel over time and create a “film” over your teeth. To minimize this effect, you will want to maintain your oral health at all times and limit your alcohol intake. Otherwise, the aforementioned process will inevitably lead to cavities that may require professional dental treatment. It is much better to prevent this from happening than having to go to the dentist’s office for a filling, after all.

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Some alcoholic beverages, such as cider, white wine, and a variety of mixers will also expose your teeth to direct acid damage, hastening the entire decay process.

Intoxication makes you more prone to injuries

While it is not exactly a direct way, alcohol affects your oral health through increased risk of injury. Alcohol impairs your cognitive and motor functions, making you more likely to end up in situations where injuries may occur. For example, if you happen to fall on your face due to intoxication, you may break or lose your teeth on the spot. Not to mention that alcohol sometimes makes us do stupid things such as opening bottles with our teeth, which can further contribute to teeth damage. Lastly, alcohol consumption may make you ignore warning signs that you need braces, preventing you from seeking a solution.

You may even develop oral cancer through heavy alcohol consumption

a sad girl sitting with her eyes closed showing that oral cancer is one of the ways in which alcohol affects your oral health
Heavy drinking significantly increases the risk of oral cancer.

Alcohol, alongside tobacco, is one of the primary contributors to the risk of oral cancer. In fact, people that consume alcohol in heavy doses are up to 4 times more likely to develop oral cancer. This happens due to the fact that alcohol damages the protective lining of your mouth, making ulcers and patches much more likely. Since oral cancer may develop in basically any tissue in and around the mouth, these ulcers and patches create a significant risk.

How do different types of alcohol affect your oral health?

Every alcoholic beverage affects your oral health in a different way. Here are some of the most common beverages and ways in which they contribute to dental problems:

  • Beer – Aside from being capable of damaging the structure of your teeth, beer is also acidic in nature. Drinking beer will erode the enamel of your teeth and will heavily contribute to teeth staining.
  • Red Wine –  All red wines have acid as one of their primary components. Drinking red wine will cause your enamel to erode and will cause almost instantaneous stains due to high acid exposure. This is exacerbated by the fact that wine contains chromogens, which can also contribute to staining.
  • White Wine – While white wine is free of any pigments found in red wine, it is still highly acidic. It will not cause any staining on its own but it will make your teeth more susceptible to staining from other sources.
  • Apple Cider – Another highly acidic drink, apple cider consumption will slowly make your teeth more sensitive due to enamel wear. You may want to dilute your cider with water to minimize this effect.

Basically, the more sugar and acid the beverage contains, the greater the danger to your teeth. Cocktails and coolers, for example, usually have extremely high sugar content and are, therefore, one of the greatest contributors to teeth damage.

Lowering the risks

a glass of water
Make sure to drink plenty of water! Even if you drink sometimes, it will minimize the ways alcohol affects your oral health.

While not drinking alcohol is undoubtedly the best thing you can do, it is entirely possible to enjoy a drink here and there and still minimize the risks to your mouth and teeth. For starters, you can choose to drink beverages with lower alcoholic content. Or you may simply drink 1:1 water/alcohol, meaning that you drink a glass of water for every glass of alcoholic drink. Other ways of minimizing how alcohol affects your oral health include chewing sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva, brushing your teeth twice a day, quitting smoking, and reducing acidic and sugary foods in your diet.

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But the best thing to do to minimize the ways in which alcohol affects your oral health is to visit your dentist regularly. A visit to the dentist’s office every six months will allow you to identify any problems and take steps to remedy them.

Oral health is a very important part of our overall health. If you want to know more about how to improve both, feel free to peruse the Consumer Opinion Guide, where we will help you find the best solutions and provide you with all the information you may need!

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