This week we continue our two-part series on which drinks benefit your teeth and which can be harmful. The reality is many of us are going to enjoy a cocktail once in a while. But just like with non-alcoholic beverages, your favorite boozy treats may be harming your teeth.
As a general statement, alcohol is not very good for our oral health. But, as we mentioned in our post about the best and worst non-alcoholic beverages for your teeth, the occasional indulgence is okay. There is actually a little bit of evidence that one or two drinks on your list have positive health benefits.
Mixed drinks that use sugary sodas or energy drinks are the most damaging to your teeth. Some examples include Jack and Coke or Vodka and Red Bull, but really any similar combination is bad news. Unfortunately, there are no redeeming qualities about these combinations as they combine alcohol with the sugar and acidity of unhealthy mixers.
Many mixed drinks contain juice or syrup to give them their sweet flavor. When choosing to drink juice, no sugar-added 100% fruit juice is best, but it still contains a lot of sugar. And let's be real. When ordering a cocktail, it is unlikely this is the type of juice being used. More often, cheaper, sugar-laden brands are chosen.
Furthermore, even if a cocktail isn't fruit-based, it can be full of sugar due to syrup. Simple syrup is very common. And while it may sound benign, it is basically concentrated sugar water. Other flavored syrups are not any better.
White wine seems like a good choice, but don't be fooled. Sweeter white wines such as Riesling and Moscato are filled with sugar. In addition, wine is acidic, so it can damage enamel.
However, not all white wines are created equal. Choosing a dry white wine or making it a wine spritzer by adding plain sparkling water, soda water, or seltzer can minimize the damage and is a better choice than sweeter whites or the other drinks we have mentioned so far.
Light-colored alcohols like vodka and gin mixed with club soda are a good option. Although slightly acidic, plain soda water or sugar-free flavored seltzers are far better for your health than soda pop and juice. This is one of your best choices, and the only reason it is not higher on the list is that our next two options actually have some potential health benefits.
Just steer clear of Tonic. It may seem similar, but it is actually full of sugar. Also, be wary of canned hard seltzers. They vary widely in acidity and sugar content.
Beer is a surprising front-runner on our list. Beer is only slightly acidic, does not usually contain much sugar, and has a high water content. Hoppy beers contain tannins, which can actually help kill harmful bacteria. There is even a small amount of calcium in some beers.
Beer still has a downside. It is acidic, and darker beers can stain teeth. Stick to lighter beers since they have more water to dilute acidity as well as less chance of staining.
Like beer, red wine contains tannins which can be beneficial. In addition, red wine contains antioxidants, which fight free radicals in the body. This can be good for many aspects of our health, from cardiovascular benefits to dental health.
Conversely, red wine is acidic and contains sugar. As with anything else, moderation is key. Choose a dryer red wine and pair it with some cheese. The calcium prevents staining and strengthens enamel.
You can always minimize the effects of alcoholic drinks with a few tips. First, drink a glass of water, plain seltzer, or club soda between each alcoholic drink. This cleanses your teeth, prevents dry mouth, and keeps you hydrated. Snacking while you drink is also a good idea. As we mentioned, healthy snacks like cheese strengthen enamel. Plus, drinking on an empty stomach leads to a higher BAC, meaning you get intoxicated faster.
Above all, be responsible and drink only in moderation. If you worry that any part of your diet may be damaging your teeth, schedule a check-up today!