The Best and Worst Alcoholic Drinks for Your Dental Health

February 04, 2016

Bad-news-for-Bloody-Mary-lovers-This-and-other-alcoholic-drinks-can-wreak-havoc-on-your-oral-health_2020_40106186_0_14101850_650.jpgHere's a staggering statistic: The top-drinking adults consume 73.85 drinks each week on average. As the Washington Post highlighted, that's equivalent to a weekly "four-and-a-half 750 ml bottles of Jack Daniels," or 10 drinks per day.

So from millennials to boomers, this information is for you. We previously discussed the effect alcohol has on your teeth overall. Now, let's take a look at how some of your favorite drinks impact your dental health:

Best drinks for your smile

Take this category with a grain of salt. There is no such thing as a healthy alcoholic drink, and none of these beverages are necessarily "good" for your dental health. However, if you're looking to curb some of the damage your smile may incur from a night out on the town, these drinks are your best choices:

Light beer
Beer lovers are in luck. Speaking with Good Housekeeping, Dr. Joseph Banker, founder of Creative Dental Care, explained that the high water content and low acidity levels in light, low-carb beer make these brews a relatively safer option when it comes to dental health, especially compared to darker beers. Up the clean-smile factor by selecting beers that are also light in color to side-step potential surface stains on your teeth's enamel.

Cooler of beer bottles.
When making your beverage selection, opt for light beer.

Gin and tonic
A highball classic, sipping on a gin and tonic delivers more than just the air of sophistication. It provides a safer alternative to most cocktails when you consider the status of your smile. First, both gin and tonic are clear liquids, which takes away the risk of staining your teeth. Second, Foodary categorizes 90-proof gin and tonic as "about neutral," demonstrating their relatively low acidity levels. According to the Indiana Dental Association, acid eats away at enamel, the tooth's protective surface, until the substance creates a hole known as a cavity. Foods with low acidity levels and sugar do not cause as much damage.

That being said, this drink doesn't entirely land in the safe zone - the carbonation in the tonic can also contribute to dental damage. Make it a little better for your smile by loading up on the ice, which will water the drink down, and ditching acidic citrus garnishes like lime wedges.

According to Wine Folly, the Spanish sparkling wine cava tastes similar to champagne, carrying a slightly bitter flavor. While you can find it in both white and rose varieties, the lighter the color, the lower your risk for surface stains. Additionally, compared with other beverages like Coca-Cola or sweet white wines, cava boasts a higher pH level between 3.5 and 4. Of course, a neutral pH level of 7, like that found in water, is ideal, but as far as alcoholic beverages go, cava is about as good as it gets.

Worst cocktails for your dental health

Between high acidity levels, copious amounts of sugar and dark colors, certain alcoholic drinks can really shake and stir your dental health. Here are the worst to watch out for next time you hit the bar scene:

Whiskey and coke
As Wine Folly noted, Coca-Cola, with its harsh mix of carbonation and sugar, has a pH level of 2.5, which is about as low as it goes for beverages. Whiskey is no acidic angel, either. Both of these ingredients also have dark colors, too, which can worsen the risk for surface-level stains.

"Cranberry juice has more sugar than a can of soda."

Vodka cranberry
While cranberry juice might be equipped to mask the pungent taste of vodka, you'll have to decide whether the benefits outweigh the oral care costs. Don't be fooled by the "fruit" label. Not only does cranberry juice have a deep, stain-causing purple color, but it also has more sugar than a can of soda, according to the U.K. Local Government Association. Diet cranberry juice, on the other hand, has significantly less sugar and carbohydrates. However, you'd be hard-pressed to find a bar that serves the diet option.

Bloody Marys
Think again before taking a sip of this so-called cure for hangovers. Bloody Marys epitomize acidity with both the liquid contents and garnishes. Consider what gets mixed in with this drink: vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce, among other spicy and acidic ingredients. Top the glass off with garnishes like pickles and pepperoni, and you're sipping on a dental death trap.

To be sure, Bloody Marys do have one saving grace: celery sticks. Not only are they packed with nutrients, but as NBC News explained, these crunchy veggies are abrasive and scrub your teeth with each bite. Basically, when you munch on celery, you're also somewhat whitening your teeth.

While alcohol carries serious risks for your oral health, there are steps you can take to curb the damage. Stay away from dark, sugar-ladened drinks and sip on water throughout the night. Additionally, find a dentist and schedule regular appointments to better prevent decay.

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