The Unlucky Side Effect of Green Beer

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This Saint Patrick's Day, you may want to pass on the green beer in favor of some Bailey's Irish Cream. As delightfully festive as the emerald lager might be, dentists warn about the unflattering effect green beer can have on your pearly whites.

“Green beer can act like the colorful disclosing plaque rinses used to teach kids where they’re missing brushing and make your teeth just scream with green color on the parts where the problems are,” Joseph Roberts, a Philadelphia dentist and co-owner of Rittenhouse’s Philly Smiles, told

Those who haven't had a professional dental cleaning in a while or who have plaque buildup should steer clear of emerald-hued brews.

“The green food coloring that is added to the beer stains the bacterial cell walls in plaque," Roberts said. "So if his smile is looking all green, it’s probably not just the beer.”

Revelers determined to down green beers should brush and rinse their teeth with mouthwash before turning in at the end of the night so that the colorant doesn't have time to seep into enamel and cause discoloration. As with coffee and soda  — two infamous causes of tooth discoloration — sipping beer through a straw may limit the tinting, as doing so prevents liquids from directly touching your teeth. (Though, you might look a little silly.)

What should you do if you wake up with a more permanent reminder of Saint Patrick's Day than just a hangover ?

You can fix the immediate problem in the morning with toothpaste and some whitening strips, Roberts said, but the real problem is that a green smile is a indicator that you have plaque buildup, and so you should probably also schedule a trip to your dentist.

Luckily, the golden hue of a regular beer doesn't act as a plaque detector as much as a green-colored beer does. So when celebrating this Saint Patrick's Day, perhaps it's safest to stick to an original Irish brew like Harp or Guinness   — at least when it comes to your chompers.

Remy Melina was a staff writer for Live Science from 2010 to 2012. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Hofstra University where she graduated with honors.