- January 25, 2016
With the holidays over and life finally back to normal it’s time for the annual look back on that mad end-of-the-year rush and figure out what went great and what needs to change for next year. If you’re like nearly three quarters of adults you probably drink a bit more alcohol during the holiday season, but did you know how much of an effect it can have on your oral health?
Our Shorewood dentist office is dedicated to not only restoring your smile but also to protecting it. We do so not only through exams, cleanings, and other preventive techniques, but also by helping you understand all the health risks that come with bad oral health habits. While you don’t need to eliminate alcohol from your diet you do need to know the risks that come with drinking too much!
Alcohol: An Anatomy
That evening drink, whether it’s whisky, beer, wine, or a cocktail, has an effect on your teeth and gums. Alcohol has some basic characteristics that make it a dangerous substance starting from the moment it hits your lips. The oral health effects of alcohol are cumulative, so the more you drink the greater the impact will be.
Acids ruin your teeth, and if there’s one thing for certain about alcohol it’s that it makes your mouth far more acidic than usual. Depending on what you’re drinking that change can be even more drastic. Cocktails containing citrus, for example, are far worse for your teeth than just a plain whiskey on the rocks.
Acid ruins your teeth by softening your enamel, making it easier for it to be worn away by drinks, foods, and bacteria. Sugar is the biggest acid producer that you encounter day to day, and so sugary drinks make the acidic effects of alcohol even worse.
The worst possible thing for you to drink would be a high proof cocktail with citrus and sugar in it. You’re hitting your mouth with the acid boost from alcohol, citric acid, and sugar. It’s a recipe for tooth destruction!
Alcohol lessens saliva production too, which is essential for a healthy mouth. Pure alcohol is often used as a drying agent in chemistry, and it does the same thing to your mouth and body: it saps away the moisture and leaves you feeling dry and dehydrated.
Your mouth uses saliva to wash away acids, bacteria, and sugar that build up in your mouth, and without a proper flow of saliva you can end up with an oral environment that’s just ripe for tooth decay and gum disease. If you keep adding sugar, alcohol, and acid to your mouth the destruction will become worse and worse.
There is a 30 percent increase in mouth cancer risks for heavy drinkers as well. All of the biological changes triggered by alcohol can combine over time to produce serious health effects in your body and mouth as well. In fact, alcohol is second only to smoking as an oral cancer risk factor.
It Sounds Horrible!
You might see all this and assume the worst, but these risk factors are just that: risks. There’s no reason to assume that you’ll end up with a destroyed smile from the occasional evening drink or holiday party. That is, as long as you take the proper precautions to maintain your oral health!
- Make sure you drink water while drinking alcohol. It’s a good way to prevent a hangover and a cavity! Water will keep you hydrated and keep your saliva levels normal.
- Always brush your teeth after drinking, but make sure you wait at least 20 minutes after your last drink. It takes approximately that much time for the enamel on your teeth to re-harden. Brushing inside that 20 minute window can actually cause damage to your enamel and increase your risk of cavities.
- Drink alcoholic drinks through a straw, which can help them avoid your teeth. If you’re opting for a cocktail then chances are it will come with a few straws, so use them!
Most importantly, we need to be seeing you every six months at Shorewood Family Dental Care. A twice-annual exam and cleaning can be the difference between catching a problem early and having to deal with expensive dental restoration later on!
Healthy Teeth: Something To Drink To!
Protecting your teeth and enjoying a drink don’t need to be mutually exclusive. Let us help you protect that smile with an appointment at our Shorewood office! To schedule a visit call us today at 815-768-1615 or simply fill out our online form. We look forward to seeing you soon!