But what are the effects of alcohol on your gums, mouth tissues, and teeth?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines moderate alcohol use as one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men. The CDC considers heavy drinking to be more than eight drinks a week for women, and 15 or more for men.
Gum disease, tooth decay, and mouth sores are all much more likely for heavy drinkers, and alcohol abuse is the second most common risk factor for oral cancer.
What about the teeth?
People who have alcohol use disorder tend to have higher plaque levels on their teeth and are three times as likely to experience permanent tooth loss.
But are moderate drinkers at risk for serious tooth and mouth disease? There isn’t much conclusive medical evidence. Dentists say that they see the effects of moderate drinking regularly, however.
The color in beverages comes from chromogens. Chromogens attach to tooth enamel that’s been compromised by the acid in alcohol, staining teeth. One way to bypass this is to drink alcoholic drinks with a straw.
If you have a preference for mixing liquor with dark sodas or drinking red wine, say goodbye to a white smile. Aside from the sugar content, dark-coloured soft drinks can stain or discolour the teeth. Remember to rinse your mouth with water between drinks.
Beer is only marginally better, as it is acidic just like wine. That makes teeth more likely to be stained by the dark barley and malts found in darker beers.
Acid from beer and citrus (which might be found in cocktails) attacks teeth, causing dental sensitivity and enamel erosion. Sugar from soda also forms acid, increasing the chance of dental cavities and acid erosion.
Drinks high in alcohol, like spirits, dry the mouth. Saliva keeps teeth moist and helps to remove plaque and bacteria from the tooth’s surface. Try to stay hydrated by drinking water while you drink alcohol.
Tooth damage related to alcohol is increased if you chew the ice in your drinks, which can break your teeth, or if you add citrus to your beverage. The Australian Dental Association notes that even a squeeze of lemon could erode tooth enamel.
One study did conclude, however, that red wine kills oral bacteria called streptococci, which are associated with tooth decay. That said, don’t start drinking red wine just for this reason.