7 Best & Worst Alcoholic Drinks for Teeth

drinking at the bar

*If you or someone you love is suspected to be an alcoholic, teeth aren’t the primary concern. Getting sober is. To locate an Alcoholics Anonymous support group near you, visit www.AA.org

We often talk about how alcohol is used as an active ingredient in popular mouthwash brands. It serves as an antimicrobial ingredient, but it also stabilizes the mouth rinse for a longer shelf life. But what about the other type of alcohol you find in adult beverages? Does it affect your mouth the same way? Are there certain types of better/best alcoholic drinks for teeth when it comes to how it affects your mouth? If you want to judge them based on the alcoholic and sugar content, then sure. The combination of these two key ingredients are ultimately what makes a drink “bad”, “worse”, or “better” (less bad) on your teeth.

Alcohol’s Effect On Your Teeth

Before we get too bogged down in identifying the best alcoholic drinks for teeth, we first need to discuss why adult beverages can be pretty harsh on your smile.

1) Staining 

Dark-colored drinks tend to cause the most dental stain, compared to clear liquids. If you’ve invested in teeth whitening or a lot of cosmetic dentistry, you will want to consider how your beverage choices tie into the amount of stain buildup you’re prone to. For an alcoholic, teeth staining is fairly common. By nature, our teeth are naturally porous and will pick up stain particles from the foods and drinks we enjoy. Even a great toothbrushing routine won’t prevent stain from packing into those microscopic, little holes.[1]

2) Dry Mouth

Alcohol is a natural drying agent. When it goes into your mouth, it dries out your oral tissues and decreases saliva flow. If you already suffer from xerostomia (dry mouth), then alcoholic beverages can make it worse. That’s why your dentist will say to avoid certain types of mouthwash or to make sure to pick one out that’s completely alcohol free. Some people refer to xerostomia as “cotton mouth” because of the dry, sticky feeling when they wake up in the mornings. If you drink frequently without good home care or are a recovering alcoholic, teeth may start to decay at rampant rates. Certain medications or cancer therapy can also contribute to dry mouth.

3) Tooth Decay

The combination of dry mouth, sugar, sweeteners, syrups, and all of those “yummy” ingredients that go into alcoholic drinks are just as bad (if not worse) on your tooth enamel than other types of non-alcoholic sugary drinks. If you’re at a risk for tooth decay, then watch out. Any time your saliva flow is suppressed—which is what alcohol does—your chances of developing cavities go up, up, up. Sugary liquids flow into all of those areas between your teeth and on the groovy chewing surfaces, which are the most cavity-prone spots in your mouth.

Worst Drinks For Your Teeth

1) Rum And Coke

Combining rum and Coke is a quick go-to because of how easy it is to make, but it’s loaded with sugar and has a pH level that’s headed straight for tooth decay. And remember, soda is one of the top offenders when it comes to dental staining.[2]

2) Vodka Red Bull

Energy drinks are one of the worst offenders when it comes to cavity rates in adults. Even though vodka is clear, the energy drink portion of your beverage can also cause stain buildup. But your real concern here is enamel demineralization and the dangerous mix of energy-drink ingredients and alcohol. It’s not a smart move, so just avoid it altogether.

3) Vodka Cranberry

When you start mixing fruit juices with vodka or other types of alcohol, you get similar outcomes as the rum and coke scenario listed above. Fruit juice is not one of the best drinks for teeth, because it’s loaded with natural sugars. Cranberry juice is known to have even higher sugar content than a lot of popular sodas. Plus, the cranberry juice is acidic, complicating the overall effect on your mouth. If you’re making the drink at home, you always have the option of swapping the juice out for a diet version to reduce some of the sugar content (it just won’t help with the stain.)


4) Bloody Mary

The acidic tomato juice in a Bloody Mary makes you more prone to enamel erosion, tooth decay, and issues like heartburn (if you’re prone to it already.) Adding lemon juice just complicates things even more. And in case you didn’t already know it, tomato juice, sauce, etc. can significantly raise your chances of tooth discoloration. Plus, there are plenty of other acidic ingredients depending on how it’s made, such as pickles, hot sauce, etc. It’s like an acid bath for your smile.  

5) Red Wine

Dark wines are especially prone to causing heavy enamel stain[3] (similar to coffee, soda, and tea.) If you’re a red wine lover, make sure you’re frequently sipping and rinsing with water between glasses. If it can stain a white t-shirt, it can definitely discolor your teeth.

Sipping wine through a straw isn’t really an option, so there’s no way to avoid the stain-causing liquid from constantly washing over your front teeth with each drink. Even though a clear white wine will make you less likely to develop decay, it’s not free of sugars and acid. Always drink in moderation and have the water on hand.

“Best” Drinks For Your Teeth

1) Light Beer

One of the best drinks for teeth (or “least bad” it you want to get picky) is a light beer. Since it tends to have a lower acid content and more water as a core ingredient, it’s less likely to stain your teeth the way other darker beers would.  

2) Gin & Tonic

Are your friends picking on you for being “extra” and ordering a cocktail? The joke’s on them. Since gin and tonic is clear, you’re less likely to see any stain buildup. Plus, there’s less acid compared to most popular drinks and cocktails. A lot of the time the added ice will water it down even more. While gin and tonic isn’t the “perfect” choice, it’s one of the best drinks for teeth when you compare it to other options out there.  

So, What Can I Drink When I Go Out!? 

Regardless of what you decide are the best drinks for teeth, there’s one important thing you need to do: Sip, drink, or rinse with water in-between your drinks. This step will help prevent dry mouth as well and/or dehydration.  It will also rinse away some of the sugar in your mouth. 

Even if you’ve chosen the least damaging/best alcoholic drinks for teeth, the ingredients can still raise your chances of xerostomia (dry mouth) and tooth decay.[4] The extra rinsing with water can really cut back on enamel damage. That way when you do indulge, you don’t have to worry as much about your oral health.

Last but not least, if you or someone you love is suspected to be an alcoholic, teeth aren’t the primary concern. Getting sober is. To locate an Alcoholics Anonymous support group near you, visit  www.AA.org