Drinking Too Much Alcohol Can Damage Your Teeth and GumsPublished:April 5th, 2012
The latest clinical research has found people who drink too much are three times more likely to suffer from severe gum disease compared to those who only drink occasionally. If you smoke as well as drink then it’s even worse, as the study which was published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology found this further increased the chances of developing severe gum disease.
The British Dental Health Foundation has commented on these results, and points out levels of alcohol consumption which were previously thought to be safe are now being proven to be unsafe, especially when combined with tobacco use. According to the Foundation, the risk of mouth cancer can increase by up to four times in those who drink alcohol to excess, and binge drinking is a well-known problem in the UK. It’s estimated there will be around 60,000 new cases of oral cancer during the next decade.
A recently published article in The Lancet warns there could be more than 200,000 preventable deaths in England and Wales due to excess consumption of alcohol, unless the current laws are reformed. These figures are a worst-case scenario, and are based on around 70,000 deaths caused by chronic illnesses such as breast cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, oral cancer, and strokes, as all these illnesses have been linked to poor oral health.
The fact is gum disease can affect anyone at any age, and even people who only drink occasionally are susceptible towards developing gum disease, especially if they are social smokers who enjoy having a cigarette with a drink. One of the reasons alcohol is bad for teeth is the high sugar content in most alcoholic drinks. Sugar is a great food for plaque bacteria, and will increase the acidity in your mouth, causing the dental enamel to soften. It’s even worse if you’re fond of drinks mixed with fruit juices, as this increases the acidity levels even more. When you’re out having a drink, try rinsing with a mouthful of water every so often as this will help to wash away excess sugar, and will lower acidity levels.
So what’s the best way to lessen your risk of developing gum disease if you enjoy a drink and smoke? Well of course you can always try cutting down, but in the meantime try to pay extra attention to your daily oral care. This means brushing your teeth at least twice a day, first thing in the morning and last thing at night, and taking care to floss thoroughly. Flossing isn’t a lot of fun, but is proven to be one of the best ways to keep the gums healthy. If you really can’t stand flossing then try alternatives such as interdental brushes or treat yourself to an oral irrigator. These devices work by squirting water under pressure in between your teeth, and they are surprisingly effective at removing excess food debris, and are a lot easier to use.
Combining your daily oral hygiene routine with regular visits to your dentist every six months or so should help ensure any problems are picked up early on. It’s a great idea to get your teeth cleaned professionally at every checkup, as this has been shown to really help keep gums healthy.