Alcohol and Your Teeth

A glass of red wine can stain your teeth, but it might do more harm than that. Alcohol has a bad effect on your teeth because it is acidic and can wear down tooth enamel. And there’s more. Just like smoking or eating too much sugary candy, drinking too much alcohol can cause dental problems.

The first problem is that alcohol is drying. The saliva in your mouth helps to wash away bacteria and food particles after you eat. Because alcohol has a drying effect, it inhibits the production of saliva. The acid in alcohol softens tooth enamel, the hard surface of your teeth. After you drink alcohol, don’t brush your teeth right away. If you do, the toothbrush on the softened teeth can do damage. After about 20 minutes, the enamel has had time to build up again; then it is a good idea to brush your teeth to clean them and get water and moisture back into your mouth.

Alcohol consumption before bed is not a good idea because it can increase the chance of nighttime teeth grinding. Called bruxism, teeth grinding is a habit that many people are not even aware that they have. Teeth grinding can happen while you’re sleeping, and it can wear down your teeth and cause headaches, jaw pain and TMJ disorder. Alcohol before bed affects the part of the brain that is involved in sleep and makes it more likely that you will grind your teeth during the night.

People who drink alcohol heavily can develop a B complex vitamin deficiency. This can cause problems in the mouth including canker sores, burning sensations in the mouth, difficulty swallowing and swollen tongue. Alcoholism is also a risk factor for oral cancer.

Alcohol can also lead to oral health problems indirectly by contributing to poor oral hygiene. Someone who is experiencing mouth sores or burning sensations will have a hard time brushing their teeth, so they may not brush as often as they should. Frequent alcohol consumption can also cause a person to develop a tolerance for local anesthetics used by dentists. Someone who finds that they are not thoroughly numbed before dental work is likely to start skipping dental appointments.