When out celebrating the end of another long work week with friends or colleagues at happy hour, you’re probably not thinking about the potential damage the drink you’re holding may have on your oral health. But just like everything else you eat or drink, alcohol can impact the health of your teeth and gums. How, exactly, does alcohol affect your oral health? And how can you protect your teeth? Well, here is a peek at the connections between alcohol and oral health.
Moderation is the Key
Drinking a few glasses of red wine during the week won’t have a negative effect on your oral health, which is great news for those who enjoy the wonderful wines we have here in California. In fact, red wine contains a compound – resveratrol – that actually helps improve heart health, according to a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic. However, what is true of red wine isn’t necessarily true of all types of alcohol. But as long as you drink in moderation, the health of your teeth will remain largely unchanged.
You should always be mindful about what your drink contains. Many cocktails, especially those mixed with sodas like Coke, contain high levels of sugar used to cover the strong taste of alcohol. As patients of Sonora dentist Dr. Paul Berger know, sugar has a terrible affect on your teeth. Sugar feeds bacteria living in the mouth to produce harmful acids that slowly erode your tooth enamel. Too much sugar intake, especially over a long period of time, can lead to the development of cavities. This process of transforming sugar into acids happens immediately after you consume sugar. Frequently eating – or in this case, drinking – items high in sugar causes acid attacks to occur again and again.
For this reason, you should pick what you drink carefully. Drinks that contain less sugar are better for the health of your teeth and waistline. So rather than order a rum and coke, consider drinking rum on the rocks or neat, instead. If you desire a sweeter flavor, consider ordering a glass of wine rather than a cocktail like a margarita or cosmopolitan. The fermentation process of wine actually removes much of the sugar from the beverage, despite the sweeter taste. However, dessert wines actually contain a high amount of sugar, so be aware at dessert time.
Excess is a Risk
When you consume alcohol in excess it becomes a danger to your oral health. In fact, the American Dental Association warns that individuals who abuse alcohol have an increased risk of suffering from a variety of oral health complications. For example, one in three alcohol abusers will develop potentially precancerous oral lesions. But how does alcohol contribute to these issues? There are a number of ways:
Sugar: As mentioned earlier, sugar is one of the biggest contributors in the development of cavities. People who drink heavily are exposed to sugar in the alcohol they consume, which can lead to the deterioration of their teeth. Binge drinking only helps exacerbate decay.
Dry mouth: Dry mouth is a common symptom of alcoholism, as heavy drinking can cause dehydration. Dry mouth becomes more problematic when drinking is paired with smoking. When you suffer from dry mouth, your cells are more susceptible to damage, and the negative effects of tobacco use become more potent.
Weakened immune system: Drinking alcohol can weaken your body’s immune system, making it more vulnerable to illness and disease. Your body is also less able to create antioxidants that fight oral cancer and more serious diseases.
Your Sonora Dentist Can Help Protect Your Oral Health
While the oral health issues related to alcohol consumption can have a serious affect on your teeth and gums, it doesn’t mean you can’t drink. Moderate alcohol consumption isn’t likely to cause oral cancer or severe tooth decay, so try limiting yourself to one or two drinks a night. Additionally, when you do drink, choose to enjoy beverages that contain low levels of sugar and be sure to keep brushing and flossing daily.
If you have any questions about how drinking can impact your oral health, feel free to ask Sonora dentist Dr. Paul Berger during your next visit.