Soda and other sugary drinks are infamous for causing tooth decay and teeth stains, but did you know that alcohol of any kind can also harm your teeth and gums? When consumed on a regular basis alcoholic drinks can cause tooth erosion due to the often high levels of sugar and acids, particularly in mixed or fizzy alcoholic drinks. When combined with poor dental hygiene, alcohol creates the perfect recipe for tooth decay.
How Does Alcohol Affect Your Teeth?
Alcohol has wide reaching affects on a person’s mind and body. From loss of inhibitions to increased food cravings, it’s not surprising that a few cocktails at the end of the night can also cause a range of negative effects on one’s teeth and oral health.
Dry Mouth – Alcohol is dehydrating and reduces saliva production. Saliva contains anti-bacterial properties that neutralize acids and other harmful substances. With less saliva, bacteria can cling to the teeth and gums, causing plaque build up, decay, and erosion. In order to reduce the affect of dryness and dehydration caused by alcohol, it is recommended to drink plenty of water to rinse the mouth and keep the body properly hydrated.
Stains – Pigmentation from dark alcohols, such as red wine, a Stout beer, or whiskey, can become embedded in the porous surface of tooth enamel, causing the teeth to yellow and darken. Rinsing your mouth out with water after drinking alcohol can help reduce the risk of staining.
Decay – Oral bacteria thrives on the sugar and acids found in alcoholic drinks, leading to higher plaque levels. Consistent alcohol consumption, combined with the drying, dehydrating affects of alcohol can significantly increase the risk of tooth erosion and decay. Additionally, if drinking to the point of becoming sick, the extremely acidic quality of vomit can severely damage the teeth and gums.
Tooth Loss – Alcohol abuse is known to exacerbate the inflammation caused by gingivitis and gum disease. If not treated, the inflammation and build up of bacteria can severely damage the gum tissue and lead to tooth loss, as well as damage to the bone tissue beneath the gums. As the gums, teeth, and bone grow weaker over time, cavities and tooth loss can increase the risk of painful and dangerous infections or abscesses.
Protect Your Smile Every Day
In order to prevent the harmful effects of alcohol on your periodontal health, it is strongly advised to drink responsibly and practice good, consistent oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing at least twice a day can prevent oral bacteria from getting out of hand and wearing away at your teeth and gums. It is also important to visit a periodontist for a thorough teeth cleaning and scaling to remove plaque, as well as treatment and management of gingivitis or gum disease. Studies have found that alcohol abuse increases the risk of oral cancer, especially when combined with tobacco use.
Guest Post Submitted by Drs. Aalam and Krivitsky from the CENTER for Advanced Periodontal & Implant Therapy
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