Thanksgiving Eve is a notorious party night. The idea is that you go out drinking and the next day you wake up, watch football and eat a cornucopia of comfort foods, making the holiday the perfect hangover cure. Something people don’t think about enough is the effect of alcohol on the teeth. Often, people connect the foods they eat with tooth infections or decay, but the liquids you ingest also have a profound effect as they wash past your teeth and over your tongue.

Let’s take a look at wine. Red wines have been known to stain the teeth and gums when you drink enough of it; hence the term “wine gums”. In addition to staining, wine, both red and white, has a high acidic content. Sweet wines combine acids with sugar which make for a destructive drink for your teeth. Some people suggest drinking through a straw to keep from staining your teeth as well as protecting them from the acids and sugar. It may not look as sophisticated, but it is a preventative measure worth considering.

Fancy yourself a rum or whiskey and coke? Even a vodka soda or vodka cranberry? Beware of the sticky sugar and carbonation that comes from sodas. Soda is a sure-fire enamel killer. Believe it or not, cranberry juice has more sugar than soda does! This doesn’t mean drinking your spirits straight are the answer either. Dark liquors can stain your teeth as well. The acid found in any liquor also build up plaque on the teeth.

So is beer in the clear? Not exactly. Malt or dark beers will still have that staining effect. The best bet would be to try a beer light in color. There tends to be a higher water content and low acidity level. Not to mention the light color won’t alter your teeth’s enamel as much. Keep in mind, any alcoholic beverage passing through your mouth will affect it in some way. Light beer isn’t harmless, we’re just suggesting it may be the best option if you so choose to imbibe for Thanksgiving Eve.

Alcohol also dries and dehydrates the mouth. Saliva is what keeps teeth moist and helps to remove plaque and bacteria from the tooth’s surface. Spirits mixed with citruses like lemon or orange also erodes enamel. It is a good idea to alternate water between alcoholic beverages while drinking.

Gum disease, tooth decay, and mouth sores are all much more likely for heavy drinkers, and alcohol abuse is the second most common risk factor for oral cancer. People who use alcohol tend to have more plaque build up on their teeth and are three times as likely to go through permanent tooth loss.

No matter how much alcohol you consume while celebrating the holidays, it’s important to brush your teeth at the end of the night. Scrub away any wine stains, sugary sodas or brew acid. Rinsing with a shot of mouthwash for a nightcap is a good idea for washing away residual bacteria. Be safe and have a happy holiday!