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While it’s quite normal for people to drink alcohol and live a healthy lifestyle, consuming large quantities of it can have severe short and long terms effects on your overall wellbeing including your physical and mental health. But what does drinking alcohol specifically do to your teeth? Let’s find out.
Alcoholic drinks can contain a lot of sugar but they can also be quite acidic. Drinks are considered acidic when they measure 5.5 or less on the pH scale. Acidic alcoholic drinks such as wine and cider can damage the teeth by softening tooth enamel, making teeth sensitive and potentially causing oral health problems such as cavities.
Men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week. This is the equivalent of six pints of average strength beer or seven glasses of wine.
Drinking sugary cocktails and acidic drinks can increase your risk of tooth decay. The bacteria in your mouth feed on sugar, so drinking lots of sugary and acidic drinks can cause plaque to grow on the tooth’s surface. If plaque is allowed to build up it can cause the outer layer of enamel to erode causing cavities to appear in the tooth’s surface. If left untreated, the cavity can spread to other parts of the tooth, causing pain and possible tooth loss. You might be suffering from tooth decay if you have a toothache, pain when chewing and sensitivity to sweet, hot or cold food and drinks.
While the colour of your teeth can naturally change as you age, your teeth can also become discoloured due to the type of food and drink you’re consuming. For example, alcoholic drinks such as beer and red wine are commonly known for staining teeth. This is because they contain a compound called chromogen. The acid in the alcohol can wear away the enamel on the teeth, the chromogen compound then attaches itself to the unprotected tooth surface causing them to appear stained.
Alcohol decreases the production of an antidiuretic hormone which is used by the body to reabsorb water causing you to go to the toilet more often and to feel dehydrated. This dehydration can cause dry mouth and a reduction in saliva. Saliva is used to naturally wash away bacteria in the mouth and without it bacteria is able to cling to the enamel and increases the risk of tooth decay. Not only is a dry mouth bad for your teeth, it can also cause bad breath too.
Regularly drinking alcohol puts your mouth and throat at an increased risk for all types of oral cancer. According to Mouth Cancer Foundation, who this November will be raising awareness of mouth cancer, around 60,000 people will be diagnosed with mouth cancer over the next decade. Drinking to excess can increase the risk of mouth cancer by four times. Those who smoke and drink are up to 30 times more likely to develop mouth cancer. However, a study has found that when you stop drinking, you can reduce your alcohol-related risk of getting oral cancer by 2% for each year you remain tee-total. For more information on where to find alcohol support click here.
As discussed at the beginning of this article, it is possible to drink alcohol and live a healthy lifestyle. However, there are additional ways in which you can protect your teeth from alcohol and keep your smile white and bright: