One of my worst nightmares is having something happen to my teeth. After a round of braces and very pricey Invisalign, it's not surprising that I try to protect them at all costs. But a dentist's recent revelation has proven how little I really know about dental health — especially when it comes to drinks. So can alcohol damage your teeth? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.
Sydney-based dentist Dr. Lewis Ehrlich uploaded a series of photos on Instagram, showing the effects that just one alcoholic drink can have on your precious teeth. "We've all heard of tooth decay but many haven't heard of tooth erosion," he wrote in the corresponding post, explaining that erosion occurs "when acids in your diet start to dissolve away your teeth."
Luckily, this doesn't happen with every type of food and drink. But the process of erosion begins when the pH level goes below 5.5. I hate to break it to you but the majority of beverages — except for good old water, of course — are way below this.
Dr. Ehrlich proved just how damaging alcohol in particular can be with three extremely close-up photos of teeth. The first shows the outer surface (or enamel) of a tooth that has been exposed to regular water with a pH of seven. As you can see, it looks pretty normal. In fact, Dr. Erhlich describes the "smooth intact surface" as "the way it should be."
But the second photo is a whole different story. This particular tooth has been exposed to a "sugar-free vodka cruiser." In other words, a form of alcopop. The pH of this drink is 3.2, causing erosion to occur. This can clearly be seen in the huge holes that have appeared in the enamel of the tooth.
The third and final hole-filled picture is the result of a gin and tonic with a pH level of 2.2. As Dr. Ehrlich puts it, "the enamel has seen better days." If this is the effect of just one drink, imagine what your enamel looks like after an entire night of heavy drinking.
It's not just alcohol that can kickstart tooth erosion. Fizzy drinks tend to have a pH level of between 2.5 and 3.5 and even fruit juices are below the recommended 5.5.
Obviously, dentists know that people aren't going to stick to a water-only diet for the rest of their lives. But Dr. Ehrlich has given some advice for those who are more than a little worried after seeing his photos.
"If these drinks can dissolve the hardest part of your body, it's scary to think what they would be doing elsewhere," he notes, reminding people that you only get one set of teeth. If you want that one set of teeth to remain where it should be, there are a few things that can help prevent excessive erosion.
If you can't face avoiding "carbonated and sweetened drinks" completely, you can drink them through a straw to reduce the amount of liquid coming into direct contact with your teeth. Dr. Ehrlich also recommends following any low pH drink with a glass of water.
You may think that brushing your teeth immediately after may help but this can actually worsen the process, according to the dentist. Instead, you should wait at least 30 minutes before giving them a good brush. Finally, it's not a bad idea to consume some healthy food "to help stimulate saliva and protect those chompers."
I don't know about you but I'm investing in some straws asap. Environmentally-friendly ones, of course.