Dry January is here and if you’re thinking about cutting out the alcohol, you’ll already be aware of the great benefits it can have on your health, wellbeing and your pocket!
But did you know there are also some great reasons to bin the booze for your oral health too? Denplan’s Chief Dental Officer, Henry Clover, explains how alcohol can affect our oral health.
1. Acid erosion of your tooth enamel
Many alcoholic drinks are acidic and sugary, which are two things that can have a significant impact on tooth enamel. The enamel, which is the protective outer white layer on our teeth, is softer after being exposed to acid and can wear away over time. Swapping mixers (which can be high in sugar and are acidic) for diet alternatives or soda water, and opting for a straw to reduce exposure to the acids, are easy ways to help look after your teeth and gums.
2. Dehydration can cause tooth decay
We know that having alcohol dehydrates the body, which means that there is reduced saliva flow in our mouths. Saliva is important because it protects our teeth from decay by neutralising the acids; so if your mouth is dry, you are at a higher risk of tooth decay. If you know you’re off out to a party or having a few drinks with friends and family, it’s a good idea to alternate your alcoholic drink with a glass of water to help keep hydrated. Having a piece of sugar-free chewing gum too, especially one that contains xylitol which inhibits bacteria forming, is a good way to stimulate saliva.
3.Plaque build-up and gum disease
There is a risk that if you are regularly drinking alcohol and not looking after your oral hygiene, the build-up of plaque will cause inflammation in the gums. With frequent brushing (twice a day, for two minutes) and seeing your dentist or hygienist regularly, you can help prevent a build-up of plaque and minimise the risk of gum disease.
4. Alcohol can increase your chances of mouth cancer
Having the odd glass of alcohol every now and then can be part of a balanced lifestyle; however, drinking alcohol to excess, especially spirits, can greatly increase the risk of mouth cancer. Last year, alcohol accounted for nearly a third of all cases of the disease. Mouth cancer is devastating and is one of the few cancers that is actually on the increase with over 7,000 cases diagnosed each year. And for anyone who smokes as well as drinks, the chances of developing the disease are a whopping 30 times more likely.
5. Teeth staining
Not limited to alcohol, dark coloured drinks such as, cola, coffee and tea can stain your teeth over time. A whitening toothpaste can help to keep minor staining under control, and regular visits to your hygienist can help to remove stubborn surface stains.”
6. Being sick!
There is no delicate way of putting it, but if drinking alcohol makes you vomit, the acids are corrosive on tooth enamel. So, afterwards it is a good idea to drink some water and wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth. That way, you minimise any damage to the enamel, which will be softer after those acids!
7. Neglecting a regular oral hygiene routine
It’s very easy to be less diligent about brushing teeth if we’re feeling the worse for wear, either at the end of the night or the morning after, but it is really important to maintain a good oral health routine. The fact remains that only through regular brushing and flossing, and making sure your visit your dentist and/or hygienist frequently (for many people this is about once every six months) are the best ways to maintain good oral health. Even if we still like a drink or two!
Even by following just two or three of these tips, as well as cutting out the alcohol, you’ll be well on your way to maintaining better oral health and getting in great shape overall for 2017!