Three friends cheers with red wine

A glass of wine with a good meal or an ice-cold beer while you’re watching the game—for some people, these are some of life’s simplest pleasures. Unfortunately, the effect alcohol has on your dental health is not as pleasant.

If you drink in moderation, you might not worry much about what those Friday night cocktails or weekend suds are doing to your mouth. Understanding how alcohol affects your teeth is the best way to enjoy the occasional drink—without sacrificing your smile. Dr. Alexie Aguil at Exquisite Dentistry, Los Angeles’ premiere dental spa, recently gave this advice for those who drink alcohol.

Dry vs. Sweet

The high-sugar content in some alcoholic drinks can lead to tooth decay and cavities so that extra vodka and cranberry could be doing more damage than you think. Mixers are often to blame—those dire warnings your dentist makes about sugary sodas and fruit juices still apply when they’re mixed with spirits! Where possible, opt for a sugar-free option like soda water with some fresh mint—just as satisfying, without the toothache.

When it comes to wine, there’s a general rule that’s easy to remember—the sweeter the flavor, the more sugar it likely has. Dry wines often have less residual sugar from the fermentation process while maintaining a rich, fruity flavor.

Enamel Staining

The occasional drink doesn’t have to cost you your pearly smile—but it will if you don’t take care of your teeth. Red wine contains dark pigments called chromogens that can cause dullness and long-term discoloration. Dark beer and dark soda mixers are also culprits: the acid in the drinks softens the enamel on your teeth, increasing the risk of staining.

Drinking through a straw is a good way to minimize teeth staining, though not always practical. If you must sip, rinse your mouth with water between drinks to minimize your enamel’s exposure to the offending liquid—it’ll also help to reduce your hangover the following day by keeping you hydrated! Using a whitening toothpaste before going to bed will also help combat the alcohol’s staining effects.

Other Risk Factors

Glass of beer being poured and how it affects teeth

Another good reason to drink water alongside alcohol is to prevent dehydration. You’ll find your saliva flow decreases after a few alcoholic drinks, meaning your mouth can’t naturally wash away bacteria sticking to your teeth. Chewing sugar-free gum is another option to get the saliva flowing again, and helps keep your breath fresh even after a few beers.

Speaking of beer, if you drink it regularly, consider switching to a low-carb brand. The lower acidity and higher water content make it better for your teeth, and your waistline—that’s one way to avoid a beer belly.

Finally, if you habitually crunch the ice in your drink, your dentist implores you to stop. Chewing ice can chip and crack your teeth, not to mention worsening your sensitivity and wearing down your enamel. It’s best to leave the ice in the glass.

Following these simple tips will help keep alcohol from affecting your teeth, but don’t forget to keep up with your regular dental appointments to spot any issues early. If you are a moderate to heavy drinker, you should also consider undergoing an oral cancer screening due to the direct link between alcohol and dental health.

Contact us today for more information, as well as for an in-office consultation.