For most people, the holiday season comes replete with chances to spend time with loved ones, nosh on great food and, yes, “cheers” to some of the season’s best bubbly. But whether you prefer champagne to wine or mixed drinks to beer, you should be aware that alcohol and teeth aren’t natural allies. Luckily, a thorough dental hygiene routine can banish the signs of your indulgence as you enjoy the holidays. Here’s how alcohol can affect your teeth and why you might choose one drink over the other.
1. Sugar Content
Sugar intake can be a major risk factor in tooth decay. That’s because the bacteria in your mouth lives on sugar, so sipping on sweet drinks offers that bacteria plenty of fuel to thrive. By choosing beverages that are lower in sugar, you can ensure your holiday merrymaking doesn’t turn into a problem by January.
As Karen MacNeil states in “The Wine Bible,” a dry brut champagne typically has just 0.5 grams of sugar per 5-ounce serving. A doux champagne on the sweeter end of the spectrum can have anywhere between 8 and 10 grams of sugar, making a drier champagne the better choice with respect to your teeth. Wine has a similar spectrum, according to Dr. Mike Roussell, with a typical dry white wine weighing in at roughly 3 grams of sugar per 5-ounce serving, relative to a whopping 8 grams of sugar for a sweet red wine, sherry or port. When in doubt, opt for a drier drink for healthier teeth.
The American Dental Association (ADA) warns that one of the often-forgotten side effects of alcohol can be just as damaging to your teeth: dehydration. Alcohol consumption leads to a decrease in saliva flow, so instead of being washed away naturally, bacteria clings to the enamel and increases your risk of tooth decay.
If you’re celebrating the season with a few drinks, be sure to alternate alcohol with a glass or bottle of water to replenish this saliva and keep your mouth cleansed. You can also chew sugar-free gum or pop a mint on your tongue between drinks to increase saliva production further.
When opting for a heavily colored alcohol, you can definitely end up with stained teeth. Red wine, sangria and similar drinks with deep hues not only turn your teeth red, but can result in long-lasting discoloration and overall dullness – which really cramps your style in holiday pictures. Make sure you counteract vibrant drinks with a whitening toothpaste. You won’t need water to brighten your smile after sipping on a glass of red wine, and your teeth will thank you for it.
Alcohol and teeth may be well-known adversaries, especially during a spirit-filled holiday season. But with a little extra care and attention, it’s OK to enjoy yourself. Just don’t let all of that merrymaking negatively affect your teeth when the holiday season is over.