Dental health may be the last thing on your mind if you’re going out for a drink with your friends, but your choice of tipple can have a lasting effect on your teeth. Alcoholic drinks have a range of effects on your teeth and gums. While many of these effects are detrimental, some drinks can actually be beneficial, including many beers and ales.
Alcohol and dental health
So why do alcoholic drinks affect your teeth? Well, the obvious answer is that they contain sugar, which promotes the growth of plaque-producing bacteria. More acidic drinks can erode tooth enamel, leaving teeth more vulnerable to cavities. But that’s not the whole story. Alcohol reduces the amount of protective saliva you produce, so sugars and acids are less likely to be naturally neutralised and washed away. In excess it can also irritate the soft tissues in your mouth, causing corrosion to your gums and cheek linings, and that can increase your chances of oral cancer.
Drinks to avoid
Fortunately for most beer-lovers, the worst candidates are sweet, fruity, acidic beverages, which coat your teeth with sugar and acids. During an evening of making merry these low pH, high sugar concoctions coat your teeth, slowly dehydrating your mouth and encouraging bacterial growth. Wine is also quite acidic, and spirits mixed with carbonated soft drinks also deposit sugar and acids where you least want them. Even beers have their down sides, as some beers, including darker ales, can be quite acidic.
Beer – more nutritious than you might think!
Fortunately for those who appreciate a good brew, beer also contains substances that are great for your teeth! Real ales and craft beers with high barley and hop contents contain high levels of silica and calcium, both of which are used by our bodies to strengthen bones, hair, nails and teeth. A study from the University of Iowa has actually demonstrated that these beers can inhibit mineral loss from teeth, protecting them from demineralisation and decay. Beer is also loaded with tannins, which, while they can cause staining, reduce the ability of bacteria to adhere to the surface of your teeth. If you’re drinking beer in moderation, you’re actually doing your teeth a favour. There’s never been a better excuse to enjoy a proper pint!
So how do you prevent drink-related tooth decay?
Even counting the positive effects of beer, it still contains sugar and acids, and it’s important to make sure that your consumption doesn’t harm your teeth. The best way to protect your teeth from alcoholic drinks is to take care of them properly in the first place, and that means regular brushing and flossing. If you have any concerns at all, the best thing to do is to find a dentist and get a professional opinion. If you don’t happen to have a regular dentist, sites like Toothpick can help you find one quickly. You can also reduce the impact of drinking alcohol by having a glass of water along with your beer.