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Six Adult Drinks That Will Damage Your Teeth

Oh, no – another dreary article suggesting we drink kale-turmeric tea while celebrating life’s happy events? Well, we do have some good news (see “beer,” below) but unfortunately if you’re fond of fruity, flashy potions festooned with paper umbrellas or ruby-red wines – you’re out of luck. That said, there’s plenty of delicious adult beverages that can enhance both your smile and your mood.

Wait - Beer is Good for Your Teeth?

Yes, but not just any beer. You’ll want to avoid sour-tasting, acidic beers if you’re planning on drinking more than one or two. Acidic food causes your dental enamel to soften temporarily, but damage caused when the enamel is under the influence of acids can be permanent.

We’re not going to get into a detailed breakdown of what beers are more acidic than others since the acid level will vary by batch – but something like a red ale is probably not going to make your teeth quite as happy as it makes your taste buds. Technically, light ales are the best choice for your teeth. But so are craft beers with un-roasted barley and hops. These ingredients contain bone-strengthening silicon and calcium. Hops also have antibacterial properties that can help control harmful bacteria in your mouth. Win-win!

Darker beers (stouts and porters, etc.) with delicious roasted malts and barley aren’t really evil either, but can stain your teeth over time. Skip them though, if you recently had a tooth whitening treatment at the dentist, have veneers, or are using at home bleaching strips to ramp up your smile. Bleached teeth absorb stains much faster than untreated teeth, and veneers can darken when exposed to deep-hued drinks.

Skip the Sweet Stuff

Alcoholic concoctions that taste like snacks do double the dental damage, as they’re packed with sugar and are acidic. The acid softens your tooth enamel, and the sugar is used as fuel by the bacteria that live in our mouths. When those bacteria are swimming in a sweet, acidic bath of booze, you’ve got the perfect conditions for dental decay. Carb-fueled bacteria multiply super-fast, creating an acidic environment in your mouth that weakens teeth and fosters the growth of bacterial plaque. Over time, without proper oral hygiene and dental care, the plaque clinging to teeth works its way under the gums, resulting in oral infections and tooth decay. Bacterial plaque is the primary cause of 90% of all dental disease.

Plus, alcohol also dries out your mouth, and since saliva is one of the mouth’s natural defenses against damage, your teeth are having a really bad time while you’re getting happy. If you’re going to drink, opt for beverages that aren’t packed with sugar and fruit juices, and gently rinse your mouth out with plain water after every drink or two to help neutralize the acid. And don’t think that abstaining from booze means you can drink whatever you want. Skip or limit your intake of sweet (and artificially-sweetened) acidic beverages, such as soda, citrus juices, and so-called energy/sports drinks.

What About Wine?

Sorry, white wine is acidic and can cause dental erosion. Red wine, on the other hand, contains phytonutrients that may prevent the bacteria which causes tooth decay, from sticking to your teeth. Sadly, red wine can also stain your teeth – so (as noted above) skip reds if you recently had a tooth whitening treatment at the dentist, have veneers, or are using at home bleaching strips. Bleached teeth absorb stains much faster than untreated teeth, and veneers can darken when exposed to red wines. Otherwise, research also indicates that pairing wine with cheese can help ward off tooth staining, as the cheese helps to temporarily protect the surface of the teeth.

An occasional glass or two of red or white wine isn’t going to ruin your smile, just moderate your intake and skip brushing your teeth for an hour or so after consuming any acidic drink to allow the enamel to re-strengthen. Instead of brushing, gently rinse your mouth out with plain water.

And while we’re on the topic, water, from a dental health perspective, is the best of all possible drinks. Rinsing with water after meals or after consuming acidy drinks like beer, alcohol, soda or fruit juice will help keep your mouth clean and your dental enamel strong. If you don’t like the taste of the water that comes out of your tap, read the labels on bottled water to understand what you are buying or drinking. The American Bottled Water Association defines the types of bottled water available, and provides plenty of info on the benefits of drinking good, clean water – from the tap, a bottle, or a water filtration system.

Keeping your teeth healthy requires more than an occasional, “medicinal” glass of beer, of course. Your smile demands consistent care. Brush them twice a day at minimum, floss, and get checkups and cleanings regularly. Good dental care isn’t cheap, but regular preventive care is so much more affordable than waiting until you need major treatments. And, with the right dental insurance or dental savings plan, you can afford to get the care you need to keep your smile in top shape!


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