Can Drinking Vodka Damage Your Teeth?

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Medically reviewed by Danielle Romatz, RDH

As we all know, heavy alcohol consumption comes with many consequences. However, should the light to moderate drinker be concerned? Are there better alcoholic beverages for your teeth?

Like other alcoholic and acidic beverages, vodka can damage your teeth. The acid found in vodka can weaken, soften, and erode your teeth’s enamel. Weakened tooth enamel can result in sensitive teeth and even gum disease. Rinsing with water between drinks or after drinking helps.

Not every person is going to experience dental decay from their alcohol consumption. That being said, there are some risks to be aware of and some precautions you can take. Let’s look at these risks so that you can make informed decisions about your alcohol consumption.

What is Vodka?

Glasses with alcoholic drinks on a glass table in bar

Vodka is a distilled alcoholic beverage found typically in Poland, Russia, and Sweden. Vodka is a clear drink and is mainly composed of water and ethanol.

Traditionally, vodka is created by distilling liquid from fermented grains. However, this process has changed over time.

In the United States, vodka must have a minimum alcohol content of 40%. This alcohol is commonly consumed with no additives but can be found in a variety of cocktails. Vodka can vary in acidity, ranging from 4 to 8 on the pH scale. Less expensive vodka is typically more acidic.

Does Vodka Damage Your Teeth?

Like all other alcoholic and acidic beverages, vodka can damage your teeth. The acidity found in vodka can weaken, soften, and erode your tooth enamel. Heavy consumption of vodka can also result in gum disease, dental decay, and mouth sores.

Weakened Teeth Enamel: Like other sugary and acidic beverages, vodka can damage your teeth’s enamel. Alcoholic drinks can weaken, soften, and erode teeth enamel over time. Enamel protects your teeth from damage, extreme temperatures, and more. Loss of tooth enamel can result in sensitive teeth.

Dryness: Alcohol dries out your mouth. When your mouth is dry, you’re more at risk for developing cavities, plaque build-up, and developing harmful bacteria. All of this can result in dental decay, gum disease, and more.

Gum Disease: As mentioned earlier, excessive alcohol consumption can cause gum disease. The sugars in alcohol can contribute to the build-up of harmful oral bacteria. This bacteria can lead to bleeding, bad breath, and more.

Staining: Although vodka is a clear liquid, staining is still a real risk. Those who prefer cocktails with mixers and additives should be especially aware. The acid found in cocktails can weaken your teeth’s enamel, making them more at risk for staining. The tannins and colors found in mixers can leave residue, resulting in stained teeth.

These are just a few of the complications moderate drinkers can experience. Heavy drinkers can suffer from gum disease, dental decay, oral cancer, and more. However, alcohol has been around for centuries, so there must be some good, right? What are the health benefits of vodka?

Are There Any Good Uses of Vodka For Oral Health?

Alcohol dates back for centuries. In fact, alcohol was traditionally used for medicinal purposes, and we still use it today. Alcohol has been used as a disinfectant, antiseptic, and more over the years.

It’s no surprise that the acid content found in alcohol and vodka kills bacteria. Alcohol has been used as a disinfectant for centuries. In fact, diluting a bit of vodka in water can kill bad breath and ease a toothache.

On top of that, you can use a bit of vodka as a natural cleaner when in a pinch. If you need to, you can clean off your toothbrush with some diluted vodka. At the right strength, vodka will kill germs and bacteria.

Vodka should never be replaced as a natural disinfectant or antiseptic, but it does have its uses. All these benefits may make you wonder: Are there alcoholic drinks that are better for your teeth than vodka?

What Alcoholic Drinks Are Best for Your Teeth?

Alcoholic drinks on old weathered wood background

We all know alcohol can come with a slew of consequences. These consequences range from light staining all the way to oral cancer.

However, there has to be a lesser evil, right? Here are some alcoholic drinks that are less likely to damage your teeth.

Straight: The least damaging way to consume alcohol is by drinking it straight or “neat.” This means to drink just the alcohol with no additives or mixers. Consuming vodka without any additives will reduce the chances of staining. Drinking vodka this way will also reduce the damage from sugars found in sweeteners and mixers.

Vodka Soda & Vodka Tonic: If you prefer a mixer, opt for vodka soda or vodka tonics. These drinks are transparent in color, ensuring you avoid the risk of stained teeth. However, the added acidity can damage your teeth’s enamel. This risk is exceptionally high if you like to add lime or lemon to your cocktails.

Beer: Beer typically has less acidity than other alcoholic drinks and spirits. Beers can have a pH range of 3.5 to around 4.5. However, sour beers can have a lower pH range, making them more damaging. It’s also important to note that the dark barley and malts can still stain your teeth.

Bourbon & Scotch: Although still acidic, bourbon and scotch are typically a better option. These beverages tend to have a pH level of around 4, making them comparable to beer. However, these drinks can still stain your teeth and cause damage.

Sugar Liquors: Sugar liquors like rum and tequila are less acidic than other options. Tequila and rum can be found at pH levels hovering around 5. This level makes them a better alternative than beer.

So, What’s The Verdict?

Should you swear off vodka altogether? The short answer is: It’s up to you. Like all other alcohols and acidic beverages, vodka can damage your teeth. However, vodka may be more damaging than red wine or other spirits.

To avoid damage from vodka, alcohol, and other acidic drinks, be sure to use a straw. Using a straw reduces the amount of exposure your teeth have to acid, resulting in less damage.

Additionally, opting for drinks with clear lighter-colored mixers or none at all will prevent stains and damage.

Drinking alcohol with a meal can also help protect your teeth. When we eat, our mouths produce saliva. Saliva helps fight acidity and protect our teeth from damage. So, the next time you have a vodka soda, get an appetizer as well.

On top of that, rinsing after drinks, brushing regularly, and practicing moderation can all help protect your teeth. As always, speak with your dentist and physician before making any lifestyle changes.

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