7 Ways Alcohol Can Hurt Your Smile | Saunders DDS
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    7 Ways Alcohol Can Hurt Your Smile

    by Saunders DDS on August 21, 2018

    One of America’s most popular and widely abused beverages is also harmful to your teeth. Alcohol not only has negative consequences for your body; it also damages your smile.

    From beer to wine to liquor, alcohol is corrosive to tooth enamel and can irritate the gums, especially if you’re not brushing, flossing, or visiting your Asheville dentist regularly.

    If you choose to drink alcohol, it’s important to know how this beverage will affect your teeth and gums. Here’s how alcohol can hurt your smile and why this beverage made it to our top six worst drinks for your teeth!

    Alcohol Dehydrates You

    Similarly to caffeinated beverages, alcohol dehydrates you. Its dehydrating effect on the body also dries out your mouth and decreases your saliva production, which means there’s more of a chance your teeth will be impacted by bad bacteria.

    Dehydration can even affect cognitive function, so staying hydrated while drinking alcohol is important. To do this, simply sip water with your drink or have a glass of water after each drink to help both your smile and your body to remain healthy and less impacted by the alcohol.

    Alcohol Is Acidic

    Saliva helps to keep our mouths at a healthy pH, somewhere near neutral (7 on the pH scale). Alcohol, however, is very acidic and most alcoholic drinks fall somewhere in the 3-5 range on the pH scale. What does this mean for your smile?

    The more acidic a food or beverage is, the more likely it is to erode your tooth enamel. Acidic drinks encourage oral bacteria to turn harmful, which can actually eat away at tooth enamel, especially over long periods of time (think sipping a drink over a period of hours).

    Adding citrus fruits to your alcoholic drinks is even worse, as these fruits have even lower numbers on the pH scale. For instance, a lemon has a pH of just 2!

    Alcohol Can Stain Your Teeth (And Not Just Wine)

    We all know that red wine can stain your teeth. What many people don’t realize is that beer—especially darker brews—can also stain teeth.

    Although regular cleanings with your Asheville dental practice can remove surface stains and a professional  teeth whitening may be able to more comprehensively remove deeper stains, your best bet is to drink alcohol in moderation to avoid unsightly stains that can impact the appearance of your smile.

    You can also sip your drink through a straw, which means the liquid will almost completely bypass the teeth to help prevent staining. Another helpful tip is to drink water with your drink; this not only helps to prevent dehydration but also creates a buffer between your teeth and the alcohol that could stain them.

    Sugar from Mixed Drinks Damages Teeth

    If you enjoy mixed drinks, keep in mind that many syrupy add-ons and sugary substances such as soda can make your alcoholic drink extra harmful to your teeth.

    Sugar encourages bacteria in the mouth to produce harmful acids, which lowers the pH and can harm tooth enamel. Once tooth enamel is worn away, it can’t be replaced. Eroded tooth enamel causes symptoms such as tooth sensitivity, discoloration, and tooth decay.

    Enamel erosion is a common side effect of eating too much sugar or exposing the mouth to sugar over long periods of time. However, when mixed with alcohol, your alcohol consumption can become even more damaging to your pearly whites.

    Alcohol Abuse Increases Your Risk for Oral Cancer

    Oral cancer includes cancers that develop in the mouth. Over 10,000 people die from oral cancer every year, and over 50,000 people are diagnosed with these cancers annually.

    Alcohol abuse is the second largest risk factor for developing oral cancer with tobacco use being the first. Alcohol and tobacco use combined especially raises your risk for oral cancer.

    In fact, 70% of people diagnosed with oral cancer are heavy drinkers. You can protect yourself from oral cancer by quitting smoking, reducing your alcohol consumption, and regularly visiting your Asheville dentist for checkups and oral cancer screenings.

    Alcohol Increases Your Risk of Tooth Decay and Gum Disease

    People who drink alcohol frequently have more dental plaque than people who don’t. Research shows dependency on alcohol leads to more plaque regardless of your oral care habits.

    As a result of increased plaque, alcohol can increase your risk for tooth decay and gum disease. In general, people who drink have a higher risk to develop cavities, especially if your drinking is so heavy that you frequently vomit.

    Vomit contains harsh stomach acids and is extremely corrosive to teeth, eroding away enamel and causing irreversible damage. If your drinking is so heavy that you vomit, it might be time to seek help.

    Alcohol May Be Linked to Teeth Grinding

    Although no causal link has been proven between alcohol and teeth grinding, research has shown that alcohol use has been “associated highly” with grinding your teeth while asleep.

    Teeth grinding (also called bruxism) is extremely harmful to teeth. It inflames the gum tissue and can cause fractures in your teeth. If left untreated, bruxism can even cause tooth loss.

    Bruxism is treatable by your dentist in Asheville. If you find you’re grinding your teeth or wake with a sore jaw or a headache, it’s time for a dental exam. Your Asheville dentist can talk with you about your symptoms and if your alcohol consumption could be contributing to your bruxism.

    Concerned About Your Smile?

    If you’re concerned about your smile, consider making an appointment with Dr. Saunders at Saunders DDS. From oral cancer screenings to comprehensive exams, we provide a full range of services for our patients in Asheville.

    Is your alcohol consumption causing issues with your smile? There is help for people who struggle to control their drinking. When it comes to your oral health, you can decrease your risk of oral cancer, cavities, and gum disease simply by cutting back on alcohol or quitting altogether.

    Come in and see us at Saunders DDS for an exam. We can help you protect your smile and prevent further damage!

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