For years now, we have become familiar with health warnings about excessive alcohol consumption and its negative effects on the body. Oral health is often left out of this conversation, however. Although an immediate association between alcohol and oral health may not be made, the fact remains that the former can greatly impact the latter.
Alcohol and Oral Health: How Alcohol Damages Your Mouth
Alcohol consumption and oral health share a cause-and-effect relationship, with alcohol serving as the catalyst for the development of many diseases that affect your oral health. Dental decay, gum disease and increased chance of oral cancer are among the risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption. Read on to learn the different ways in which alcohol can affect your oral health.
Alcohol and Teeth
Much like drinking soda or juice, when you drink alcohol, acids and sugars temporarily weaken enamel. Generally, your teeth can quickly recover from this damage. Saliva assists in this process by washing away sugars and preventing them from remaining on your teeth.
However, when an individual drinks multiple alcoholic beverages within a short period of time, damaged enamel has no time to repair. The increased exposure to sugars and acids in alcohol, in addition to bad oral hygiene practices (common among those that abuse alcohol), can lead to tooth decay and other oral health problems.
Alcohol and Gum Disease
Periodontitis, also known as gum disease, results from bacterial growth in the mouth. Sugars in alcohol feed these bacteria and irritate gums – leading to bleeding, swelling and bad breath among other symptoms. As periodontitis progresses, it can lead to loosened gum tissue and tooth loss. Recent research has even suggested that alcohol and oral health may have even more far-reaching effects on your overall health, with periodontitis thought to play a major role in conditions such as premature birth and diabetes.
Alcohol and the Tongue
Alcohol dries the mouth and can even dehydrate your entire body. The drying effects of alcohol can result in white tongue, a condition that occurs when papillae become inflamed and bacteria and dead cells become trapped within them, causing a white film to cover the surface of the tongue. The absence of saliva also means that bacteria and food particles that settle around your teeth are not effectively washed away. Conditions such as bad breath or even black hairy tongue can occur as a result.
Alcohol and Preventive Oral Health Practices
You can combat the effects of alcohol on your oral health by drinking in moderation. The most effective method for maintaining good oral hygiene is to brush your teeth at least twice each day, floss regularly and visit your dentist every six months. Be sure to brush your teeth after drinking alcohol and acidic drinks in general, waiting at least 30 minutes to brush because the acid in these drinks softens enamel upon contact.
Want to learn more about alcohol and your oral health? Consult an experienced dentist that makes your oral health a priority. Covington Center for Family Dentistry has a skilled team of dentists with years of experience in recognizing and treating oral diseases. Browse our site to learn more about our practice, view our extensive dental service offerings, or schedule an appointment with us today!