Alcohol and your oral health

Over-consuming alcohol can put your entire body at risk for several diseases and conditions, like cancer, heart disease, and even increase your risk of developing dementia. While sitting back after a long day with a cocktail may be your nightly ritual, it’s important to keep alcohol consumption in check. A single drink every night can promote the growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth while simultaneously stunting the development of helpful, probiotic bacteria that work to keep your mouth and the rest of your body healthy and running as it should.

Here are five harmful ways alcohol can have a negative impact on your oral health and your overall health.

Oral Cancer

While tobacco use has been proven to increase the risk of a person developing oral cancer, those who use both tobacco and alcohol are at an exceptionally high risk of contracting the life-threatening disease. These two substances are known to increase each other’s harmful effects on the body. Alcohol has a dehydrating effect on cell walls, while tobacco carcinogens’ restrict the body’s natural ability to permeate mouth tissues.

The top contributors to oral cancer are:

AgeThe majority of people are over the age of 40 at the time of discovery.

Gender General ratio statistics show men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer than women.

Race and EthnicityOral cancer occurs twice as often in the black population as in whites.

Lifestyle ChoicesThe use of tobacco and alcohol consumption are considered the top causes for those who develop the disease.

Stained Tooth Enamel

If you tend to reach for dark-colored alcohols, you increase your chances of developing stained teeth with every sip. Alcoholic beverages like red wine, sangria, and dark hard alcohols that you sip slowly linger on your teeth long after your beverage is finished. Fight back against stained tooth enamel by counteracting dark-colored beverages with whitening toothpaste, rinsing your mouth with water after consumption, and using whitening products regularly.

Dry Mouth

One of the top side effects of consuming alcohol is how it dehydrates your body – mouth included. Because of how alcohol dehydrates your body, you will experience a decrease in natural saliva flow which causes the harmful bacteria from food and drinks to cling to your teeth instead of being washed away naturally. Harmful bacteria caused by dry mouth on the surfaces of your teeth increases your risk of tooth decay. If you’re consuming alcohol, balance your drink ratio with a glass of water for every drink you consume to help keep your saliva flowing.

Teeth Grinding

Clenching or grinding your teeth regularly can harm your teeth and lead to other oral health issues. While teeth grinding can have different causes, it’s most often triggered by stress, medical conditions, crooked or missing teeth. Grinding your teeth can become more likely after drinking alcohol or caffeine. If you already have a history of grinding your teeth in your sleep, try skipping your glass of wine before bed or your caffeinated cocktail to help reduce grinding.

Plaque Buildup & Cavities

Alcoholic beverages high in sugar content can be a significant risk factor in developing tooth decay and plaque buildup. The bacteria in your mouth survive on sugary foods and drinks, and consuming items that are high in sugar gives those harmful bacteria fuel to destroy and conquer your enamel. Choosing beverages that are lower in sugar can help protect your teeth, and alternating alcohol with a glass or bottle of water to help replenish the saliva in your mouth will keep your mouth cleansed.

Other Ways Frequent Alcohol Use Can Impact Your Teeth and Gums

In addition to increasing the risks of developing tooth decay, gum disease, and stained teeth, heavy drinking can cause irritations of the tissues inside your mouth. It can even lead to severe and irreversible dental issues like permanent tooth loss. Your dentist is often the first healthcare professional to detect health issues caused by the overall effects of alcohol and drug consumption.

If you find yourself consuming an alcoholic beverage daily and are concerned that your happy-hour habit affects your oral health, ask Aubrey Baudean DDS how your alcohol consumption impacts you at your next dental checkup.