6 Detrimental Effects Alcohol Has on Your Teeth and Mouth

Alcohol consumption has become a regular characteristic in our society. Whether you’re enjoying a few beers while watching the game or throwing back cocktails at a holiday party, it’s generally accepted that drinks will be available at any celebratory event. And in most cases, you will be expected to toast and “cheers” along with everyone in attendance.

While an occasional drink may have minimal to no impact on your health, the risks increase the more frequently you imbibe. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), moderate drinking is considered one drink per day for women and two drinks or less per day for men. More than that could put you at risk for myriad alcohol related diseases.

While we are familiar with the effect that alcohol can have on our bodies, like weight gain or liver disease, most people are unaware how alcohol can affect their oral health. If you think you may be at risk, here are some common issues that alcohol can cause to your teeth and mouth:

  1. Dehydration

After enough drinks, you may start to notice that your mouth feels more dry than quenched. That’s because alcohol is a diuretic, resulting in the need to urinate more often than normal. Less liquid in the body means that you will experience a decrease in saliva flow, which is needed to wash away bacteria and keep your mouth cleansed. If your body isn’t replenishing its saliva flow, bacteria will cling to your tooth enamel and increase your risk of tooth decay. That’s one of many reasons why it’s recommended to have a glass or bottle of water between drinks, to ensure your mouth is staying properly cleansed.

  1. Staining

Anyone who enjoys a glass of red wine may be familiar with “wine mouth”, when your lips and teeth are stained red from your drink. That’s because darkly colored alcohol contains chromogens, which attach to tooth enamel that’s been compromised by the acidity found in alcohol. Heavily colored drinks can stain your mouth right away, which can be easily removed with a quick brushing using a whitening toothpaste. However, frequent drinking could lead to permanent discoloration and a dull smile.

  1. Tooth Decay

Most alcoholic beverages contain a lot of sugar, so drinking a sweet beverage could have the same effect as eating a candy bar. The bacteria in our mouths thrive on sugar and can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease. The sugar in our drinks along with the dehydration from alcohol makes your mouth a warm and cozy environment for bacteria to huddle up and stay, wreaking all types of havoc in your mouth.

  1. Gum Disease

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Periodontology showed that drinking can increase the severity of periodontal disease (otherwise known as gum disease or periodontitis). In the study, they researched occasional, regular and heavy drinkers – both with and without periodontitis – to see the affects of alcohol use on their gums. They observed that participants suffering from periodontitis experienced more severe symptoms proportionate to the frequency that they drank. Even participants that didn’t suffer from periodontitis showed some mild symptoms, like gums bleeding with little provocation, after drinking alcohol. More research needs to be done to determine the full extent of the effects alcohol has on the gums, but this study did indicate a correlation between imbibing and gum disease.

  1. Enamel Erosion

Alcoholic drinks themselves can be particularly acidic, like beer. And most cocktails are served with citrus, which also contains an acidic juice that weakens tooth enamel. Even just one squeeze of lemon can create enough acid to start eating away at the protective cover, leaving your teeth appearing dull and making them even more vulnerable to the damaging effects of alcohol.

  1. Oral Cancer

When drinking alcohol, many factors come into play that increase your risk of oral cancer. In fact, the Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF) has named alcohol as the second largest risk factor for developing oral cancer. All of the effects we’ve listed above work together to corrode the cheeks, gums and skin, which results in mouth and throat cancer. If you enjoy a smoke with your drink, your risk continues to increase. Dehydration and corrosion leave your mouth more vulnerable for tobacco carcinogens to spread and most heavy drinkers are unable to fight off disease due to nutritional deficiencies.

The effects of alcohol on the teeth and mouth can range from mild to severe, so it is always recommended to practice regular oral hygiene – especially if you are imbibing. Brush twice per day, floss at least once per day, and schedule regular check ups with your dentist to catch warning signs early. Always be honest about your drinking with your dentist, so they can better diagnose your symptoms and recommend treatment.

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