Heading out with friends or coworkers for a drink after work is nothing new. It is a great way to network and build relationships as well as blow off some steam. However, drinking alcohol, especially in larger amounts, not only affects our overall health but our oral health as well.
Tooth decay is a big problem related to drinking alcohol due to the sugars and acids that are in alcoholic drinks. When these sugars combine with natural bacteria in the mouth they form an acid that attacks enamel, breaking it down.
This is especially true when the teeth are constantly exposed to sugars and starches in alcohol without a break.
But it is not just the sugar and starches in alcohol that can be harmful to teeth. Alcohol dries your mouth just like smoking. The dry tissue decreases saliva. Saliva is a powerful tool in reducing the incidence of cavities by washing away harmful bacteria. Dry mouth can accelerate the damage caused by the sugar in alcohol.
So be warned. If you are going to happy hour, brush and floss as soon after as possible.
For those that are heavy drinkers, the probability of damage from drinking is much higher.
Heavy drinking can cause:
- Irritation of the gum, tongue and oral tissues
- Poor healing after dental surgery
- Poor dental health habits
- Increase in tooth decay
- Increased risk toward periodontal (gum) disease
- Smoking and drinking are risk factors for higher incidence of tooth decay, periodontal disease and oral cancer
Heavy drinkers are at greater risk of developing cancer in the mouth, throat and esophagus. People with alcohol abuse problems have been shown to have a higher incidence of periodontal disease, tooth decay and potentially precancerous oral lesions.
If you think you have a drinking problem, speak to your doctor about getting help.