The Effects of Alcohol, Soda and Coffee on Your Teeth
Are Your Drinking Habits Damaging Your Teeth?
The mouth may be small, but it is filled with parts that are vital to our overall anatomy, such as teeth. Our teeth are key players when we chew, eat, and even speak. They are what give us a radiant smile – that is if we care for them properly.
Teeth are naturally strong, but they can also be destroyed just because of our bad habits. This post will tell you about how some drinks that most people think are harmless can be devastating to the overall health and appearance of teeth.
Teeth Composition and Function
The teeth are made up of molars, premolars, incisors, and canines. They are sharp and hard, made to bite, tear, grind, and crush food, among others. Just like bones, the teeth are strong and sturdy. But did you know that teeth are stronger than bones? It is because of enamel, the teeth’s outer layer that is made primarily of calcium phosphate among other minerals.
Enamel is the hardest substance that you can find in your whole body. Underneath the enamel is another substance known as dentin, which may not be quite as hard but solid enough to protect the teeth. It is probably why some people think that the teeth are indestructible, which of course makes sense. Science has proven that teeth can last hundreds of years.
With the human teeth being incredibly hard and strong, does it mean they cannot be destroyed? While it is true that our teeth are strong, they do not function like bones, particularly when it comes to healing. When you break a bone, the body will start the healing process as quickly as possible, which was mentioned in this journal injury.
When you damage a tooth, it will not heal. The reason is that the enamel is inorganic and does not have any living tissue, unlike with bones. To keep the teeth strong and healthy, the best way is to maintain a good oral hygiene routine. It ensures that your enamel stays in tiptop shape.
In this post, you will learn about the bad habits that can damage your smile permanently. You may think that drinking alcohol, carbonated drinks, or coffee will not affect your teeth. However, they have adverse effects that can keep you from smiling confidently as you grow older.
Can Alcohol Wreck Your Smile?
First, let us talk about alcohol. It comes in many forms. People usually have a favourite type of alcohol. And in moderation, these drinks do not have harmful effects. We have even heard about the benefits of drinking alcohol, especially red wine.
Moderate drinking is defined as two drinks for men and one drink for women daily. People who consume alcohol regularly in excessive amounts can develop tooth decay if the alcoholic beverage has sugar in it. It is because these drinks can break down the tooth enamel.
The process begins with the sugar in alcohol. When it mixes with the bacteria you have in your mouth, it turns into plaque. It slowly builds up, softening the enamel and results in a hole or a cavity.
Once there is a hole in your teeth, bacteria and plaque will reach the dentin. It is the part of the tooth under the enamel and is more susceptible to damage. Tooth decay, therefore, quickly speeds up since the enamel is already destroyed.
The decaying process will continue. If you keep on consuming alcohol, plaque and bacteria will multiply in your mouth. Together, they will go to the softer centre of the tooth, which is called the pulp. It is where blood vessels and nerves are found. Once exposed, you will feel tooth pain and even suffer from a dental abscess.
An article on Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research specifies that a person’s salivary glands and their chemical makeup determine how the soft and hard teeth tissues stand against regular alcohol consumption.
The problem is that many heavy alcohol drinkers already have poor diets. As a result, their salivary glands are not in good condition. It is why these glands interact poorly when the mouth has bacteria swimming around.
Heavy drinkers are identified as men who drink 15 or more and women who consume at least eight beverages weekly. Moderate drinkers have minimal risk, but those who drink excessively can suffer from major consequences, not just tooth decay but oral cancer.
It all sounds scary, but there is good news. If you drink heavily very sporadically in just a few days and you usually drink lightly or moderately, solid dental hygiene can save your teeth. However, if you do not take care of your oral health, you can still suffer from side effects, such as:
- Staining Alcoholic beverages have chromogens, which give them their colour. Chromogens easily latch on to your tooth enamel, which can weaken it slowly. Alcohol has acids, and along with chromogens, drinking one glass can easily result in teeth discolouration. You may want to avoid reds and darker wines, which will only make it difficult for you to have a bright smile.
- Tooth decay: Many people think that they are doing their teeth a favour by choosing alcohol over fizzy drinks. However, these drinks also contain high amounts of sugar. The bacteria in your mouth thrive on sugar. By consuming alcohol, you give bacteria the food they love.
- Tooth sensitivity: Some drinks are a bit citrusy while others add a squeeze of lemon. It adds a little bit of energy to the beverage. However, it also causes the enamel to break down, which not only leads to cavities but also tooth sensitivity.
- Dry mouth: When you drink beverages with high alcohol content, such as liquor, they can dry your mouth quickly. Saliva, as you may already know, helps remove bacteria and plaque from the teeth. When your mouth is dry, saliva is not present to help reduce gum disease risk and tooth decay.
Sugar is one of the worst ingredients in alcohol and other food and drinks you consume. Excessive drinking and oral health do not go well with each other. The more you drink, the higher your risk of acquiring gum disease. Alcohol can also accelerate such condition if you already have it.
To be clear, a “healthy” alcoholic beverage does not exist. Although you may know about the mental and even physical benefits of some drinks, it does not mean you should consume them excessively. However, if you should choose to imbibe, some are better choices than others. We advise you to stay within moderate levels, though.
Some of the drinks that do not have as much impact as others on your oral health include:
- Light beer: As the name suggests, this drink is much lighter than traditional beer. It has a high water content that lowers its alcohol and acidity levels. Drinking light beer may not be an option for some people but it has a lower impact on your teeth than other choices out there. Also, it would be even better if the light beer is light coloured, which means it will not stain your teeth.
- Gin and tonic: Both gin and tonic are clear liquids, so they will not cause any staining on your teeth. The acidity level is also low in this drink, which will not have a bad effect on your tooth enamel. However, some people like to add a citrus wedge, which can certainly do a bit of damage to the tooth.
- Brut champagne: Dry brut champagne has about 0.5 grams of sugar in a 148 mL serving. In comparison, doux champagne is much sweeter and contains about eight to 10 grams of sugar. In this case, you can tell that the drier champagne is the better choice for your teeth. The low sugar content lowers the potential of having mouth problems.
- White wine: Just like with champagne, white wine is a bit drier than sweet red wine. Typically, whites have about three grams of sugar per 148 mL serving. Reds, as well as port and sherry, have at least eight grams for the same amount.
When in doubt, you may want to opt for a drier drink, which has the lowest impact on your teeth and oral health. Of course, you should always drink in moderation.
A Fizzy Drink Every Day Will Give You Tooth Decay
Just like alcohol, it is no secret that soda consumption is linked to tooth decay. Soda is deadlier to your teeth, whether it is in lemon, lime, or orange flavour. Soft drink is never a healthy choice. It has no positive health properties, along with its negative impact on your teeth. Whether you call it soft drink, soda, or pop, it has high glucose levels and you can easily over-consume these drinks.
Alcohol has the same bad effects and does not offer anything nutritionally either. However, most people do not drink alcohol as much as soda, which is why these two products cannot be directly compared.
Aside from empty calories, soda is bad for your health. Studies have shown that it can lead to health complications, such as obesity, osteoporosis, and diabetes, among others.
Over the past several decades, milk consumption has decreased greatly. At the same time, soda pop has spiked in numbers, along with 100% juice products. It has become a habit for people, especially younger ones who consume soft drinks daily. This regular consumption can quickly lead to tooth decay.
Sugar in soda easily combines with the bacteria that freely live in your mouth. When they mix, they form an acid that can vigorously attack your teeth. It is scary to think that each attack lasts approximately 20 minutes, which will start over again once you take another sip of your favourite soda.
Now, here is a question that many people ask. Since regular soda has high amounts of sugar, is sugar-free soda safe for your teeth? Here is the simple answer: No. Unfortunately for soda fans, even diet and sugar-free soda have their type of acid that can wreak havoc to the teeth.
Soft drinks have become one of the most significant sources of tooth decay, which can affect all ages. Soda comes with acids and by-products that contain acidic sugar that can soften the tooth enamel. When habitually consumed, it can lead to the formation of cavities.
It becomes an even bigger problem when the person who drinks carbonated drinks regularly does not have good oral hygiene. In extreme cases, it can lead to grinding of teeth, especially while sleeping. Some people end up losing their teeth because of infrequent brushing combined with regular intake of soda.
Sugar-free drinks are considered the lesser evil, particularly when compared with regular sodas. However, they only account for 14% of soft drink consumption, perhaps because of lower sugar content. It may also be due to sugary drinks being more popular than their sugar-free counterparts. It does not mean though that soft drinks with less sugar are safe for consumption. In reality, they are still acidic, which can cause tooth problems as well.
It is an increasing issue since many children and teenagers opt for soft drinks rather than water. Estimates range from one to five school-age children drinking soda at least once a day. Additionally, at least one in every five kids would consume at least four servings of soda daily.
On the other hand, drinking diet sodas, along with 100% fruit juices, may instantly make people think that they are better. After all, they contain fruits. However, they are surprisingly bad for your teeth. These drinks not only cause tooth decay but can also lead to dental erosion, which is what happens when your teeth are exposed to acidic substances.
Diet sodas mostly contain different types of acids, including:
- Tartaric acid
- Citric acid
- Phosphoric acid
These ingredients are also common in fruit juices. They give these beverages a little bit of zest, but at the same time, they cause dental erosion.
Diet sodas would often have lower to zero sugar content. It sounds a better alternative to real, sugary sodas. However, they almost have the same negative effects on your teeth as with regular soft drinks. Researchers at the University of Michigan in the US compared the dental erosion effects of diet and regular sodas. They found that these two products have a very insignificant difference when it comes to their damage to the teeth.
A 14-day exposure to regular coke led to 2.8/ cm² dissolution of the tooth enamel. The same study showed that diet coke dissolved more than 3 mg/cm² for the same period. The numbers demonstrate that diet soda may have a more devastating effect than regular ones.
Larger serving sizes are even worse, though. In the 1950s, sodas were only available in 192.2 mL (6.5 oz.). Today, they come in bigger sizes that make them tougher to ignore. By the 1990s, sodas grew to 591.4 mL (20 oz.). It has not only become a problem because of tooth decay, but physicians were concerned about the growing number of obesity cases.
Keep in mind that the regular serving of 355 mL (12 ounces) can already contain at least eight teaspoons of sugar. Experts advise that women should not consume more than six teaspoons while men should stick to nine teaspoons of added sugar daily.
As much as possible, do not drink soda. If you wish to consume these sugary drinks, stick to these rules to keep your teeth and enamel-safe:
- Choose drinks that are low in sugar, sugar substitutes, and other additives.
If you see calcium in the ingredients, it is a better choice than those without the mineral.
- Use a straw when drinking, which helps keep the liquid from staying in your mouth.
- Rinse your mouth with water after you drink soda.
Brushing your teeth may seem helpful, but it is counterintuitive after drinking soda. Wait at least 30 minutes before you brush your teeth with toothpaste that contains fluoride, phosphate, and calcium.
The Love and Hate Relationship between Coffee and Teeth
Coffee has many health benefits. However, you cannot enjoy them when you are an excessive coffee drinker. For some people, giving up coffee is never an acceptable solution. Even if they see how bad their teeth have stained after years of drinking coffee daily, they would just surrender to it rather than say goodbye to their cup of Joe.
The biggest problem with coffee is that it leaves stains on your teeth. The enamel of your teeth does not have a level and smooth surface. It has tiny pits that you can only see through the microscope. These ridges hold particles, including the food and drink that you consume.
Coffee has dark pigments that can become embedded in the cracks and pits of the tooth enamel. They can be removed, but many people do not take proper care in getting rid of them. As a result, these pigments become a permanent resident on the teeth, which finally appear as stains on the teeth.
You may have thought about adding cream, which will lighten up the coffee you intend to drink. Light-coloured beverages produce less stain, but the pigments are still present. Coffee also has acids that can damage your teeth and the enamel itself. If you have black coffee, adding cream or milk to lower the risk of staining will not be helpful at all. You need to put more cream than coffee to truly make it work.
Quite interestingly, coffee, when consumed in limited amounts, can help give you whiter and healthier teeth. A recent study showed that coffee, particularly roasted coffee beans, can help kill the bacteria that cause tooth decay. It is indeed wonderful news to those who love their coffee.
However, just like red wine, coffee contains tannins. These tannins are a type of polyphenol that disrupts itself once in contact with water. Colour compounds begin to surface because of the mixture, and these tannins can easily stick to your teeth.
The more coffee you drink, the higher the number of tannins you consume. As time passes, you will notice that your teeth are becoming yellower than ever. It is never too late to prevent that embarrassing “coffee smile” though. The most effective solution is to give up tooth-staining beverages, such as coffee and even tea.
However, if you are not ready to give up just yet, here are some solutions to try:
- Drink coffee with a meal or a snack that is high in fibre.
- Drink a large glass of water after consuming coffee to dilute the acid and remove it from your teeth.
- Choose coffee that has no additives to get the cavity-fighting benefit of this drink.
- Try not to add sugar to your coffee so that you help reduce the impact of the beverage to your teeth.
- Avoid adding cream and other sweeteners to your coffee.
Most of us drink different beverages daily, including coffee, soda, milk, juice, and wine. However, there is one drink that you should habitually add to your everyday routine, and it is water. Out of all the beverages you consume, water is the only one that does not harm your oral health, including your teeth.
All these drinks, aside from water, cause the natural mouth bacteria to prosper. They create acids that attack teeth, causing mouth problems, such as staining, dry mouth, and even bad breath.
Never leave your pearly whites vulnerable to teeth problems. Visit your dentist regularly to get professional advice on how to improve your oral health.