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March 13th, 2019

The Not So Lucky Side Effects of Green Beer

Category: cincinnati dentist

hagen dental explores the side effects of green beer

When this time of year rolls around, we start to see more and more green—both outside (finally—Spring is almost here!) but also we start to see quite a bit of green due to St. Patrick’s Day!

St. Patrick’s Day brings out corned beef and cabbage, lots of shamrocks, leprechauns, and quite a few signs and shirts that read “Kiss me, I’m Irish!”

Just like in many other cities, in Cincinnati, St. Patrick’s Day can also be one of the more popular times of year for drinking and for friends to gather at pubs and in bars to celebrate the occasion. One of the most common orders at these places: GREEN BEER!

Let’s take a closer look at what you might find surprising about green beer, and some of the “not so lucky” side effects of green beer on your oral health.

The History of Green Beer

Before green beer was something that people used to help celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, the term “green beer” actually referred to beer that would make you…well, sick! In fact, if you were to ask a Brewmaster today, they might also be familiar with the other meaning of the phrase “green beer.” Back in the 1800s and early 1900s, if someone said “green beer” you would think they meant green that was too young; in other words, it was used to describe beer that was not fully fermented (1).

At that time, green beer was a real concern, and consumers wanted to avoid it, needless to say. The idea of serving green beer was a perceived problem for certain beer brands, so at that time, they had marketing that claimed how bad green beer was for you and your health…and of course, those same brands went on to say how THEIR brand of beer was not at all green (1).

Green Beer Is Invented

Fast forward a few years, and green beer started to shift in terms of its meaning to the everyday consumer. Many folks point towards Professor Thomas H. Curtin as the so-called “inventor” of green beer.

Curtin was a physician who created green beer in the early 1900s. Around the same time, a few others also came up with the idea for green beer, so it’s not entirely clear who was the first to come up with the idea, but Curtin is at least one of the first to start serving and drinking it.

Another key point of history around this time: It’s reported that in 1910, the Spokane Press used a headline that said, “Green Beer Be Jabbers!” and that would make one think that perhaps green beer was consumed at that point in time! Whatever the case may be, it’s believed that somewhere around that time, green beer started to mean ACTUAL green beer to consumers!

Here’s what’s a little surprising: those that first made green beer made it similar to how it’s made today. Back then, and still today, it’s made from food coloring and beer. It’s not green food coloring that’s added to the beer in most cases; it’s actually blue food coloring because that mixes best with the yellow tint of beer to give you just-the-right shade of Irish green beer (1).

The Side Effects of Green Beer On Your Health

Just like “regular” beer (that is, beer with a yellow or brown color), drinking excessively can have a negative impact on your oral health and overall heath over time. And, whether it’s yellow or green, too much beer consumption can also impact those pearly whites by potentially making them stained and/or discolored.

In general, all beer can stain your teeth, but the lighter beers will tend to stain your teeth less than the darker beers.

So what about the green tint you may see in some peoples’ mouths this St. Patrick’s Day?

The green food coloring in green beer can stain the bacteria cell walls in plaque in your teeth. It’s a little gross to know that the food coloring can HIGHLIGHT plaque in some people’s mouth, depending on the food coloring!

So, yes, in summary, you may see a few smiles that have a bit of a green tint to them. If it happens to you, don’t be alarmed. The green tint should simply fade if you drink a good amount of water or when you brush your teeth.

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Don’t Push Your Luck…

Besides some tooth discoloration over time, another side effect of drinking alcohol, including green beer, can be serious enamel erosion. You know that your teeth are VERY strong, and that’s in part due to your enamel, but what you eat and drink greatly impacts the health of your enamel.

The reality is, beer is very acidic on your teeth, so it can do damage over time to the enamel. One day or evening of drinking likely won’t cause damage, but it’s all about repetitive behaviors over time.

If you do damage the enamel because of excessive drinking, your teeth will be more sensitive. Additionally, they can appear thinner and darker. It’s not a causal relationship, but research also shows that those who drink alcohol heavily also tend to have higher plaque levels on their teeth, among other increased health risks. They are also more likely to have permanent tooth loss (1, 2).

Celebrate St. Patty’s Day…But Be Cautious & Safe!

Yes, there can be some drawbacks for your oral health with long-term, heavy alcohol consumption, including drinking green beer, if you drink it excessively.

But what about if you just want to indulge in some green beer this upcoming St. Patty’s Day?

To combat any potential negative side effects, we encourage you to keep as hydrated as possible throughout the day. As you know, water can act as a great way to cleanse the mouth, and it also works against creating an environment where bacteria thrive, whether you are drinking beer or other dark, sugary, or acidic beverages this St. Patrick’s Day. Second, don’t let the celebration keep you from your regular oral health habits. Brush up and floss, just as you normally would this St. Patrick’s Day! Last but not least, always be sure to keep your regular professional dental exams with us so we can keep an eye on your overall oral health.

All in all, the luck of the Irish really is all around us during St. Patrick’s Day! If you do plan on drinking alcohol this St. Patrick’s Day, stay as hydrated as possible, be responsible, and we encourage you to keep the drinking to a minimum!

Supporting Your Entire Health at Hagen Dental

At Hagen Dental, we support your total health—including your oral health. Visit us online here to schedule or call us at (513) 251-5500.

Sources:

  1. https://www.vox.com/2015/3/14/8210715/green-beer-invention
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3303561/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3303561/

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