With St. Patrick’s Day and other drinking holidays on the horizon, you should be aware of beer’s effect on your teeth. Discover some of the common issues associated with beer drinking, plus find out what you can do to protect your teeth if you decide to do some drinking on St. Patrick’s Day.
Like many beverages, beer can lead to tooth discoloration. This discoloration can appear as yellowish or brownish tints, which can cause even beer enthusiasts in their early 20s to look older. These unsightly stains can increase or worsen over time, especially if you drink beer regularly. Darker beers, such as stouts and porters, can lead to serious tooth discoloration, as can beers made with fruit like cherries and blackberries.
If tooth discoloration is a concern, take special precautions on St. Patrick’s Day. While dark beers can cause staining, artificially colored green brews can cause your teeth and mouth to look particularly ghoulish.
Along with affecting your teeth in a visible way, beer can also cause serious structural damage. The enamel that surrounds and protects your teeth might be the hardest substance in your body, but acidic elements such as beer can easily compromise the enamel’s integrity.
Over time, beer can eat away at your tooth enamel, causing irreparable loss. Not only does enamel erosion expose the darker-colored dentin underneath, often contributing to tooth discoloration, but enamel erosion can also lead to tooth sensitivity. With sensitive teeth, you run the risk of pain or discomfort each time you eat a spicy meal or sip a cold beer.
Keep in mind that when thinking about acidity, not all beers are created equal. Darker malt beers are typically more acidic than light beers, and sour beers are often the most acidic beers available.
While you might not think of beer as a sweet drink, the beverage has no shortage of sugars. When these sugars mix with the bacteria in your mouth, the mixture forms plaque on your teeth. Brushing at least twice a day can remove this sticky film from your teeth, but brushing less often or neglecting to brush after drinking causes the plaque to turn into a harder substance known as tartar.
When tartar forms on your teeth, the substance can prevent you from brushing your teeth and cleaning your gums effectively. Bacteria in your mouth can also damage your gums, eventually leading to infections, gum disease, and periodontitis.
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Your teeth and mouth are often susceptible to more than the effects of the beverage itself. In some cases, the cans and bottles can also damage your teeth.
You may have seen people opening beer cans with their teeth, but using your teeth as a tool rarely turns out well. While you might not chip a tooth on your first try, relying on your teeth as an opener can cause small cracks that lead to chips and other damage over time.
How to Protect Your Teeth
While beer can lead to serious oral health issues, you can prevent many of them by drinking moderately and practicing good daily dental care habits. Protect your teeth and gums by taking the following precautions:
Alternating a glass of water with a pint of beer can help keep intoxication at bay and keep your teeth healthy. Keep a glass of water on hand and take a drink every few minutes to wash away the sugar and acid from the beer.
Whether you drink beer daily or weekly, brushing your teeth often is one of the best ways you can take care of your oral health. Dentists recommend brushing your teeth at least twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. If possible, schedule an extra brushing session after a midday meal or a beer-heavy happy hour.
Flossing is nearly as important as brushing, since floss tackles tough-to-reach spots. Floss once per day to prevent tartar buildup and to keep tooth decay and gum disease at bay.
Visit Your Dentist
In addition to daily care, schedule a dental checkup and cleaning twice each year. Not only is a professional cleaning the best way to remove tartar and keep your teeth looking and feeling great, but clean teeth are also better at resisting stains and bacteria buildup.
As St. Patrick’s Day approaches and bar crawl plans materialize, don’t let your dental health suffer. Skip the green beer and protect your teeth. Your smile will thank you.
Image via Flickr by Alan Levine