Tis the season for celebrations. This time of year, many choose to toast the holidays with an alcoholic beverage. While most of us know the dangers of heavy alcohol use, many experts agree that moderate consumption can be part of a healthy lifestyle. But how does alcohol affect your oral health?
Immediate Effects of Alcohol on Oral Health
- Sugar – We all know about the effects that sugary foods and colored drinks have on our teeth and gums. One of the reasons alcohol causes oral health problems is that it contains a high amount of sugar, a leading cause of tooth decay.
- Acid – The risks of tooth decay increase if you are mixing your alcohol with sugary and acidic drinks such as soda or juice. Sugar causes decay- and cavity-causing bacteria to thrive in the mouth, while acid erodes tooth enamel.
- Staining – Colored drinks stain your teeth. The staining is caused by chromogens that latch on your teeth after the enamel has been weakened by the acid found in your drink. This means that drinks mixed with soda and juice cause twice as much harm.
- Dehydration – Drinking alcohol causes dehydration, which includes the drying of the mouth. With the reduced flow of saliva due to dehydration, harmful bacteria tend to cling on the enamel instead of being naturally washed away. This results in tooth decay. Bad breath is another side effect of dehydration.
Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on Oral Health
Heavy drinking, more than 15 drinks per week for men and 8 for women, causes serious oral health consequences. Besides the usual staining of teeth and tooth decay, there is a high risk of gum disease, mouth sores, and even oral cancer. Teeth erosion, or the wearing away of the enamel, is a common problem resulting from acid from excessive vomiting. Heavy drinking is also a leading cause of teeth grinding, especially during sleep. Teeth grinding can lead to sensitivity and decay from the wearing away of enamel.
Alcoholism also often results in folate deficiency and deficiencies in other B-complex vitamins. These deficiencies increase the chances of developing a swollen tongue, recurrent ulcers, mouth sores, altered taste, inflammation of the mouth, and tingling in and around the mouth. Heavy alcohol and tobacco use are also a leading cause of oral cancer.
Alcohol and Oral Health Preventive Practices
The best way to combat the negative effects of alcohol on your oral health is to avoid it completely. However, if you choose to drink in moderation, choose your drink wisely. Avoid colored, sugary, and mixed alcoholic drinks. Settle for light beers that have low acidity and high water content. Gin and tonics are also a great option since they are clear and do not stain teeth. Drier, low-sugar drinks such as brut champagne are also a good choice when trying to avoid damage to your teeth and gums.
If you do consume alcohol, simple, healthy habits practiced on a daily basis will help you preserve your dental health. Brush your teeth regularly, floss, and keep hydrated. Most importantly, pay regular visits to your dentist to ensure that you keep your smile beautiful and healthy.
Dr. Mott proudly serves the greater Shreveport & Bossier area. His dental practice has the best in modern dental technology, and their highly trained staff is ready to assist you. Dr. Mott is one of the best, most highly rated Bossier dentists. Stop in and see what everyone is talking about. Make your appointment with Dr. Mott today.