Nearly 86% of Americans ages 18 and older report drinking alcohol in their lifetime. Perhaps you’re even one of them. Whether you drink to relax or dispel social anxiety, sipping an alcoholic beverage can do wonders for your nerves.
However, alcohol can take a significant toll on your dental health despite its seemingly beneficial effects. From dryness and staining to erosion and decay, your teeth will likely suffer damage as long as you have a drink in your hand.
To keep your smile looking good for years to come, it’s essential to be aware of how alcohol can take a significant toll on your dental health despite its seemingly beneficial effects. It’s important to note that some drinks are worse than others; a closer look will help you determine which to consume and which ones to avoid the next time you hit up the bar.
Best Alcohols for Dental Health
Alcohol can damage your teeth, regardless of which spirits or cocktails you prefer. But if you want to minimize the damages, some drinks are better than others. That said, here are a few drinks that cause less harm.
When you go out for drinks, one of the best ways to protect your teeth is to order a light beer. Surprised? Light beer is the best option for avoiding cavities and tooth erosion because it tends to have a lower acid content and more water. It’s also less likely to stain your teeth than stouts and porters.
Gin is a distilled spirit flavored with various botanicals like juniper berries and herbs. It’s a popular choice for cocktails and is often consumed with tonic water or soda.
Gin has a moderate acid content, making it less damaging to your teeth than other spirits like vodka or whiskey. Because it’s so aromatic, many people prefer to drink it with a bit of tonic. Luckily, both liquids are clear, which means you’ll likely avoid teeth staining.
However, if you want to protect your teeth from carbonation, skip the tonic and mix in flavored or purified water instead. This way, you get all the booze without adding any bubbly.
Vodka is one of the most popular spirits in the world. It’s made from distilled grains like wheat, corn, or rye. This alcohol is just as clear — albeit less aromatic — as gin. That means you’ll have to worry more about your liver than your teeth if you decide to down a few shots.
A vodka soda can even kill some bacteria responsible for bad breath. Still, it’s important to drink in moderation, especially if your vodka comes in Sex on the Beach or a similar sugary cocktail.
Worst Drinks for Your Teeth
If you thought the list of “best” drinks was short, it’s because most alcoholic beverages are harmful to your teeth. The following just happen to be some of the worst. Steer clear of them the next time you’re out with friends.
Most cocktails contain syrups, juices, powder, and sodas high in sugar that are bad for your teeth, not to mention your overall health. Fruity cocktails are popular for women because of their bright colors, unique flavors, and low alcohol content.
Unfortunately, these drinks usually have twice as much sugar as soda beverages do — that’s 36 grams of added sugar in some cases! Some examples of high-sugar cocktails include Long Island Iced Tea, Margarita on the Rocks or Frozen, Screaming Orgasm Shot, Sex On The Beach Shooter.
When you indulge in one of these drinks, the bacteria in your mouth eat the leftover sugars and produce acid, which can cause erosion, cavities, and decay. Therefore, it’s best to avoid overly complicated cocktails and stick with a few simple, all-natural ingredients.
Sweet White Wine
Have you ever read the label on your favorite bottle of wine? Many note the vino’s acidity and sweetness level, and these details are essential in choosing a tooth-friendly varietal.
In general, sweet whites are more damaging because they contain more sugar. For example, Moscato has a whopping 100 to 200 grams of sugar per liter, while Pinot Grigio contains just 7 grams per serving.
They also tend to be highly acidic. Most rieslings and moscatos fall into this category and should be avoided if you want to protect your pearly whites.
Maybe you prefer red wine to white. Unfortunately, it’s just as bad for your teeth. Reds are acidic and contain dark pigments called anthocyanins that cause staining. Even a single glass can turn your teeth and gums purple. Every type of red wine is acidic to some degree, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir being the most acidic.
However, the real issue comes from sipping red wine over a long period. Just think about how long you carry your glass around at dinner parties and other festivities. Pair red wine with cheese to restore your mouth’s pH balance and minimize damage.
Rum is a liquor made from sugarcane byproducts such as molasses or cane syrup. It’s often distilled and aged in oak barrels, which gives it its characteristic golden color and smoky flavor.
If rum and coke is your go-to drink, you might want to rethink your life choices. While delicious, this beverage contains dark rum, sugar, and citric acid, creating a trifecta for potential damage. Dark rum contains high levels of sugar. Sugar feeds oral bacteria, leading to plaque build-up and tooth decay. The dark rum and cola cocktail also has pigments that can stain or discolor your teeth, just like red wine. Meanwhile, the citric acid and sugar will eat away at your enamel and cause rapid decay.
Stick with light rums whenever possible, or mix them with diet sodas or juices to make them more palatable.
Protecting Your Pearly Whites
The best way to protect your teeth is by drinking water and avoiding alcohol altogether. You can also rinse your mouth with water after, or you can choose one of the better drinks on this list if you simply can’t resist the occasional tipple.
No matter what you drink, you can maintain your pearly whites by sipping, drinking, or rinsing with water in between beverages. Make sure that you brush and floss before going to bed and get regular cleanings. Doing this will prevent plaque buildup, reduce staining and minimize any damage your imbibing might incur.