Yes, you read that right. Beer could be good for your teeth. With nutritious dietary silicon that is essential for bone and tooth health and antibacterial properties that may help control bacterial plaque, beer may be a great way to help you improve your oral health.
Before you add an extra brew to your daily regimen, though, it must be noted that no studies have been done to show whether beer has a net benefit, or whether its potential drawbacks outweigh its advantages.
Silicon, Bone, and Enamel
One of the biggest contributions that beer may make to the health of your teeth is its contribution of dietary silicon. Dietary silicon is essential to maintaining the health of mineralized tissues, such as bones, dentin, and especially enamel–which is 96% mineral. The dietary silicon is in the form of orthosicilic acid, which is readily absorbed by the body and encourages the growth of new bone. In fact, beer waste has been used to make bone graft materials.
A study of the composition of various beers concluded that lighter malt beers contain more silicon than darker beers. Wheat beers had less than regular beers, and nonalcoholic beers had less silicon than regular beers.
Antibacterial Hops Prevent Plaque Formation
Another benefit of drinking beer is that it contains an antibacterial component: hops. Hops were added as a preservative for beers to help them be shipped before the introduction of refrigeration, and beers that were intended for shipping long distances (such as India pale ale (IPA), which shipped from Britain to India by boat) had more hops added.
In 2008, researchers concluded that hop polyphenols prevented the formation of dental plaque. This means that drinking a beer high in hops could prevent the formation of plaque and protect your teeth against decay and gum disease.
And the good news is that we have two of the best hop-forward brewers in the world near here in Rancho Mirage, with Stone Brewing (brewers of Ruination Ale) and Green Flash (brewers of Palate Wrecker).
But before you go out and pick yourself up some bombers of these hop-forward double IPAs, there is a problem. The so-called alpha hops that are popular among brewers these days actually tend to have less of the polyphenols that have been shown to impede plaque formation. This means that you might actually get just as much cavity-fighting power from a low-bitterness pilsner made with Saaz hops as from a very bitter IPA brewed with Galaxy, Warrior, or Simcoe hops. Nobody has paid much attention to the hop polyphenol presence in beers, so we’re shy of information in this regard.
Potential Negatives of Beer for Teeth
As we mentioned above, there are also reasons why beer might not be an overall gain for your teeth. It’s important to remember that although it’s less acidic than wine or soda, beer is still an acid that can erode your tooth enamel. Beer also contains sugars that can feed bacteria, which may contribute to plaque formation more than the hop polyphenols impair it. And, of course, dark beers, like coffee, stain the teeth, though these stains respond well to teeth whitening.
Overall, though, when you’re considering your evening beverage, it seems that you could do a lot worse than having a beer.
For more information about oral hygiene and to schedule an appointment with Rancho Mirage dentist Dr. Rod Strober, please call (760) 832-7915.