What Impact Does Alcohol Have on Tooth Enamel?

Alcohol is one of the most popular drinks in the world and seems to be present at nearly any occasion. However, although alcohol plays a role in many social occasions, this drink isn’t just harmful to tooth enamel, but is a risk factor for nearly every type of cancer.

Tooth enamel is the hard, shiny, protective layer over your teeth. In fact, tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, but just like our teeth, it can still be damaged by bad habits. How does alcohol affect tooth enamel?

Alcohol Can Destroy Tooth Enamel

Every type of alcohol is corrosive enough to harm tooth enamel, which essentially means it can destroy this essential substance that protects your teeth and lead to symptoms such as tooth sensitivity, discoloration, and an increased risk for decay.

Alcohol can also lead to dry mouth, which can upset the balance of bacteria and cause harmful acids to eat away at tooth enamel [1]. Once tooth enamel is gone, the body can’t replace it, so patients may be stuck with long-term discoloration or tooth sensitivity as a result.

Alcohol Can Lead to Tooth Decay

People who drink alcohol tend to have higher plaque levels in the oral cavity, even if they still brush their teeth properly, according to research [2].

Plaque is a mixture of bacteria and food particles that build up on teeth when proper brushing and flossing habits aren’t observed. However, foods such as sweets and drinks such as alcohol can also contribute to plaque formation.

If left unchecked, plaque can increase your risk for gum disease and tooth decay. In fact, people who abuse alcohol and drugs are 38 percent more likely to have decayed teeth [3]. People who drink in general also moderately increase their risk for gum disease [4].

Alcohol Can Stain Tooth Enamel

Alcohol is infamous for staining teeth. While tooth enamel certainly protects teeth, it’s also porous, which is why acidic foods and drinks can be harmful to our teeth and also why tooth enamel can stain.

The color of the foods we eat and the drinks we drink can stain our tooth enamel over time.
This is particularly true if you drink alcohol mixed with dark liquids such as cola, drink dark
beers, or enjoy red wine. These alcoholic drinks can all discolor your teeth.

While a professional teeth whitening and good home care habits can certainly help minimize teeth staining, if you continue to drink alcohol, your teeth will still stain over time.

What Can You Do?

It’s possible to still enjoy alcohol on occasion and take good care of your teeth. You can do this by:

  • Reducing your intake of alcohol. Alcohol in moderation is generally considered to be
    ok, but drinking heavily (defined as having eight or more drinks per week) is considered
    harmful [5].
  • Sip water when drinking. Sip water with an alcoholic drink to minimize the alcohol’s
    effects on your tooth enamel.
  • Take good care of your teeth. Always brush and floss—but never brush immediately
    after consuming alcohol, and visit your dentist regularly!
  • Don’t underestimate alcohol’s harmful effects on your tooth enamel. Being aware of how this popular drink affects your smile can help you take the best possible care of your teeth (and your body) so you can smile bright for the years ahead!

1. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/nutrition/food-tips/9-foods-that-damage-your-
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2760312/
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2850152/
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11288791
5. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm#excessivealcohol