The health hazards of excessive drinking are well-known. Alcohol abuse can damage the liver, kidneys, cardiovascular system, and may put you at an increased risk for some types of cancer. But did you know that frequent drinking can also damage your teeth? Here is a look at some ways in which alcohol can harm your oral health.
Alcohol consumption causes dehydration. This occurs because alcohol suppresses antidiuretic hormone (ADH), the chemical signaler that stops you from urinating excessively. As ADH is suppressed, you urinate more than normally. Frequent urination can cause dehydration, and dry mouth is a chief symptom of dehydration.
A dry mouth is not a healthy mouth. Saliva washes away harmful bacteria and naturally buffers acidic food or drinks. If your mouth is often dry, you are more likely to suffer from gum disease and tooth decay.
So what can you do to mitigate dry mouth when enjoying a drink or two? First and most importantly, do not drink to excess. Most physicians recommend no more than two standard drinks per day. Also, be sure to intersperse water with your alcoholic beverage of choice. Drinking water while you consume your glass of wine or cocktail will help keep you hydrated and allow your mouth to stay moist.
The majority of alcoholic beverages are acidic. These drinks include wine, beer, and many cocktails. Acidic drinks slowly wear away your teeth’s enamel and leave them open to decay. Even a small splash of citrus juice in a mixed drink can be harmful to your smile.
Again, the best ways to combat this problem are to drink in moderation and include plenty of water in your beverage choices. Remember also to brush your teeth after drinking to avoid dental damage overnight.
After tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption is the top risk factor for oral cancer. Overuse of alcohol can lead to cellular changes in the oral tissues. These changes may eventually lead to the formation of oral cancer.
Although more of a cosmetic issue than a dental health hazard, frequent drinking can stain your teeth. Although red wine is the most common culprit, other alcohol beverages – like dark beer – can also leave deep stains on your teeth. Again, refrain from heavy drinking and consume plenty of water to help avoid this problem.
Most adults can safely enjoy occasional alcohol. For your dental health, don’t drink to excess, remember to stay hydrated, and always floss and brush twice a day. Always remember to visit your dentist every six months or sooner if you notice a problem.