Yes, whiskey can stain your teeth (although generally not as much as other culprits), and in this article we'll talk about how you can prevent, reduce, or even eliminate such strains in between visits to your dentist.
For the record, alcohol is not great for your teeth, as you probably surmised, damaging enamel for example. But in terms of staining, some people have teeth that stain more easily, and some do not.
(Buffalobourbonbabe on Instagram, with pearly whites. Her routine: "I actually get them whitened once a year and visit my dentist twice a year along with brushing twice a day and using a fluoride rinse." The Maker's Mark is the 2021 Limited Ediition FA-02. Picture used with permission)
The pesky dilemma
We have a bourbon enthusiast friend who has the kind of teeth that stain easily. For years, he has gone to the dentist every three or four months, as opposed to every six months because he loves his black tea and caffeine, hot in the morning and ice-cold thereafter. And of course he loves a good glass of neat bourbon whiskey.
The major culprits are generally smoking, coffee, tea, and red wine. Colas kinda too -- that Jack and Coke, for example. And of course sugar in the soda can cause cavities. Indeed, mixers with the acidity and sugar, can add insult to injury.
He didn't smoke, didn't drink coffee, and only an occasional glass of red wine. And he'd like us to report, he never mixed his bourbon. He tried switching to green tea but that can result in black stains, instead of brown. Finally he decided to drastically reduce drinking tea. But barely a month after his next dental cleaning, the stains -- always in the same places -- came back.
The dentist said his teeth had the roughness and crevices that plaque -- and thus stains-- loves to stick to and thrive. Genetics plays the part; some people are born with brighter or thicker enamel. Also, as you age and the enamel wears down, exposing the yellow-colored dentin layer underneath. That's why older folks seem to have more yellow teeth.
The bourbon whiskey, that brown nectar pour, well, it wasn't doing our bud any favors.
Think about it: the barrels whiskey is aged in are, in a way, "staining" the liquor, giving it the brown color, as well as those flavors and nose that we know and enjoy. That might not be the most scientific way of putting it, but those charred new oak barrels are where it all comes from :)
So our buddy implemented the following dental hygiene changes.
Before and during drinking whiskey
- Brush your teeth before drinking. You may think, as many do, that brushing afterwards (which you should also do) is the way to do it. But brushing before removes the debris and residue that stains can cling to.
- Drink water in between your whiskey, especially if you drink it neat. Order a water back and drink it intermittently, maybe swishing around a bit.
- If image, decorum, or whiskey/whisky ethics are not a concern, you can even drink your pour through a straw. We've never seen anybody do it at a bar, understandably, but you might consider it at home, as it is recommended you drink tea through a straw, which means the liquid is bypassing your teeth, or sort of.
- It stands to reason that the longer the whiskey is aged, the more it might stain your teeth, just like steeping your tea longer. If drinking a bourbon aged 20+ years, that wood and the tannins may need an extra brushing. Just saying.
- Quick note: Some vitamin deficiencies, such as calcium and Vitamin D, may cause discoloration.
The cheap, easy whitening protocol
This is what our friend says helped him the most:
- Swish/rinse daily or every other day with diluted hydrogen peroxide (make sure it's only the 3% version). Dilute an ounce or so with water, and swish in your mouth. Don't forget to rinse with pure water afterwards.
Our buddy said: "I've tried a few of those "whitening" mouthwashes, but my grandmother knew best. The old-fashioned way works (Editor's Note: Just like the cocktail ;) The home remedy: Dilute it with water and don't shallow it.
- Every two or three days, brush with baking soda.
Says our friend: "I have a small box of Arm and Hammer baking soda on my bathroom counter. It's abrasive, I only use it once or twice a week."
(You could also take a teaspoon or two of baking soda and mix it with a small amount of 3% hydrogen peroxide, making a paste to brush with.)
Within a surprisingly short amount of time the stains that were growing so quickly started to disappear. "I saw a difference in only a couple days." We insert here that you should of course check with your dentist. Don't entirely take your dental hygiene or health advice from a whiskey blog, Colonel Bourbon's pride and honor notwithstanding :)
Which brings us to a toothbrush
Our buddy recommends:
(Pictured: The AquaSonic Black Series Ultra Whitening Toothbrush.)
Dentists recommend an electric toothbrush (why isn't it "teethbrush" btw?). Sonicare is considered one of the best but it can be expensive.
Our friend uses the AquaSonic Black Series Ultra Whitening Toothbrush, which is listed as a best-seller on Amazon and has good reviews.
The reasons he likes it:
- "I like it more than Sonicare and when I got it, it was about half the price of the low-end models that Sonicare had.
- I had two Sonicares, one after the other. They both stopped charging after a couple years. So far the AquaSonic is doing great. I'm told because it has a Lithium battery, like the higher-end Sonicares.
- There are four settings, clean, soft, whiten, massage
- A "smart" timer. The toothbrush gives you a vibration reminder every 30 seconds to "nudge" you to go onto the next "quadrant" -- top front, top back, bottom front, bottom back. Each session is 2 minutes, the dentist-recommended time to brush. Unlike the Sonicare I had, the Aquasonic even briefly stopped so you could move on to the next section.
- Comes with 8 replacement brushes!
- Comes with a handy traveling case."
Anyway, if you're interested, you can check it out here, and read other reviews, e.g:
"I waited to post this review until I went in for my quarterly periodontal this week.. there was hardly any tartar buildup after using this for 3 months. (The dentist) even recommended that I come in 2x a year instead of 4x a year so thereby saving (even) more $$ for copays etc... It will give the big guys like Sonicare and Oral B a run for their $$$."
Bottomline, our buddy had the same results; the hygienist was rather amazed.
And one more thing:
For God's sake, use a tongue scraper. Or at least brush the top of your tongue. After you brush your teeth, look at your tongue; scrap that brown gunk off. Google halitosis aka bad breath.
If you need a quick rundown on avoiding that bad breath, watch this video:
(Published by ColonelBourbontshirts.com. Some of our blog posts may have affiliate links.)