You’ve probably heard the common story that red wine can stain teeth – and, it can – but what are the other repercussions that drinking alcohol can have on the mouth? Dr. Rashmi Bhatnagar of BellaVista Dental Care says that, as with most things, the answer depends on whether consumption is done in moderation or excess. While research suggests that moderate drinking is relatively harmless (some research showing benefits of occasional, light alcohol intake), drinking in excess can have harmful effects on the body, and this includes the mouth.
“Alcohol is very acidic, so if you drink a lot of it, it can cause erosion,” explains Bhatnagar. “In general, for those who would experience erosion from drinking, we’d be talking about the more extreme end, such as alcoholism.”
This is true not only of alcoholic drinks, but energy drinks or drinks with acidic fruits, such as lemon water. Repeat offenders stand a higher risk of tooth erosion.
“If you’re a social drinker, you probably won’t have issues of tooth erosion as strictly correlating to alcohol intake,” says Bhatnagar. “The studies that are done out there that show alcohol affecting the enamel of the teeth are generally most documented as they relate to those who abuse the substance. Regular drinkers are far more prone to erosion of enamel than the casual drinker.”
The type of drink being consumed is another significant consideration. Drinks light on sugar create a less acidic environment in the mouth. Drinks falling into this category would be those like light beers, or vodka and tonic waters. Drinks that contain fruit – which is high in acidity – as well as sugar fall on the opposite end of that spectrum, and should be consumed sparingly.