Gum disease is one of the major causes of receding gums (the other being brushing too hard). Drinking can be hard on your gums, too.

Drinking the right way can ensure you have fun and don’t do too much damage to your gums in the process.

How Alcohol Hurts Your Gums

Alcohol is a gum irritant. It can cause inflammation and worsen your receding gums.

Alcoholic drinks are also acidic. This means that they can not only irritate your gums, they can destroy your teeth as well.

Alcohol also contains sugars and starches that  can feed oral bacteria. These oral bacteria secrete acids that damage your gums and teeth. Oral bacteria are the primary cause of gum disease.

Alcohol dries out your mouth. Saliva is your body’s primary defense against oral bacteria. Without it, oral bacteria will grow more profusely and cause more damage.

Drink Smart to Avoid Damage

Maintain your normal oral hygiene routine even if you’re otherwise making a party day out of St. Patrick’s. Skipping oral hygiene for even one day can dramatically increase the damage your gums and teeth suffer.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do to reduce damage from alcohol is to drink water in between alcoholic beverages. This helps keep your body hydrated, aids in saliva production, rinses acids and sugars out of your mouth, and reduces irritation of your gums.

The good news is that beer is the least acidic of alcoholic beverages. With a pH in the range of 4, it’s less damaging than wine or hard liquor.

You should also consider foregoing the green beer and the traditional Guinness in favor of an IPA. Hops have antibacterial properties, which may reduce the growth of bacteria, although how well this effect works to counter the effects of starches and sugars in the beer isn’t known.

Try not to snack while you’re drinking. Constant snacking just gives oral bacteria an even more steady food supply.

Finally, and most importantly, don’t make yourself sick. If you throw up, stomach acids will erode your teeth and damage your gums still more.

Follow these tips, and you’ll have fun with little to regret the next day (at least as far as your gums go).