Did you know that 70.1 percent of Americans have had a drink in the past year?
While we all know that excessive alcohol use is bad for us, that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed in a responsible, smart manner. Almost three-quarters of the country opt to drink alcoholic beverages, and many of them are gainfully employed, social and successful adults. All of the negative attention alcohol receives begs the question– how can you enjoy alcohol without letting the negatives impact your oral and overall health?
Alcohol and Your Smile
Drinking is known to be bad for your oral health for a few critical reasons. First, it causes dry mouth, preventing saliva from rinsing your mouth free of debris. When your mouth is in this condition, it’s much more vulnerable to cavities, gum disease, and other dental problems.
The other major way that alcohol harms your oral health in the short term is due to its acidity. The pH levels of alcoholic beverages from beer to cocktails are so low that their acids eat away at your teeth like sugar. While acid is a lesser-known threat to your teeth, it’s found in sodas, juice, and other beverages including alcohol.
Other Ways Alcohol Can Damage Your Oral Health
In addition to dry mouth and acidity, there are other ways alcohol can have a negative effect on your smile, including:
If you prefer drinks such as cocktails and wine coolers, then you’re probably consuming a lot of sugar in your alcoholic beverages. Liquors have strong flavors, and to counter that and create a drink that taste good, mixers are often loaded with sugar. As with sugary foods, sugar in alcoholic beverages attracts bacteria in your mouth to form plaque and ultimately leads to cavities and other dental problems.
Increasing Risk of Disease
With heavy use, alcohol drastically increases your risk of cancer and other diseases. The threat of oral cancer is substantial, and the disease is lethal if not caught early. While many dentists, such as Dr. Garrett Gentling of Shoreline, Washington, conduct oral cancer screenings with every appointment, heavy alcohol consumption raises the chances of developing cancer in the long term.
Poor Dental Decisions
The effects of frequent alcohol use are more than just physical. The drunken effect it causes may be the main reason a lot of people drink it, but that also leads to poor decisions. Among these questionable decisions are forgetting to brush and floss before crashing out for the night. Even if a person knows excellent oral hygiene habits, alcohol can blur their thought process, causing them to forget or lose interest in these important precautions.
The Best Part About the Problems With Alcohol
The fact that health issues can arise from abusing alcohol is well-established, but there is a silver lining– these issues can be easily mitigated. As long as you’re not drinking heavily on a daily basis, all of the problems mentioned above shouldn’t be an issue for moderate drinkers. Simply follow these tips to keep problems like dry mouth and acidity from taking a toll on your smile.
Preventing Alcohol Associated Problems as a Moderate Drinker
The definition of moderate drinking varies by country and is surprisingly liberal in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), moderate drinking is one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Note that other factors such as weight, height, and body composition also play a major role in how alcohol will affect you. Ultimately, as a moderate drinker, you shouldn’t ever have to deal with alcohol-related health problems.
Don’t Let Dry Mouth Leave Your Mouth Defenseless
Although it may sound like a minor condition, dry mouth actually can lead to a lot of problems for your teeth by robbing your mouth of its primary defense, saliva. While it’s known that drinking alcohol will dry out your mouth, there are simple ways to prevent it from damaging your smile.
Unlike alcohol, water moistens your mouth and leaves it fresh. By simply ordering a side of water with your drink of choice, you can mitigate much of the problem caused by dry mouth. Sipping water in between drinks of alcohol will ensure that your mouth stays wet and well-defended against threats to your smile.
Get Rid of Acids and Sugar Before They Create Problems
Although it’s true that sugar and acid can stick to your teeth and lead to cavities, it takes time for these problems to develop. The worst case scenario for your teeth is that you go to bed without brushing or flossing and let the sugar and acid eat away at your smile. This means that the plaque they create may have ten or more hours to wreak havoc on your teeth, causing decay, cavities, and other unwanted issues.
Even if you’re out for hours at a time enjoying drinks with your friends, you can minimize the damage caused to your teeth by remembering to brush them before going to bed. While it may be easier said than done after coming back from a night of partying, this simple act is all it takes to prevent tartar from building up and infections from developing on your teeth and gums.
How to Remember Your Oral Hygiene After a Night of Drinking
Let’s face it– our best decisions aren’t made after a night of drinking. Nonetheless, taking a few minutes to brush your teeth at the end of the night is all you have to do to prevent sugar and acid from eating away at your enamel. If you have problems remembering to take care of your teeth after a night of partying with friends, these tips may help:
- Leave a note or your toothbrush by your bed as an easy reminder.
- Print a photo of someone with bad teeth and place it by your bed to motivate you.
- If you’re more likely to take a shower after drinking, keep your toothbrush in there.
- Buy a portable travel toothbrush to keep in your purse or car for oral hygiene on the go.
Reversing Damage Caused By Alcoholic Beverages
From staining your teeth to turning your mouth into a barren desert, alcohol has undeniable effects on your oral health. If you’ve been drinking consistently for years and are a bit behind on your dental appointments, you may already be experiencing some of the dire effects of alcohol use. Explore these tips for your best chance of reversing the damage.
What Happens If Your Teeth are Severely Stained?
Much like coffee and tea, wine is one of the worst substances for staining your teeth. While numerous whitening products are available that may help to some degree, they simply can’t compete with a professional treatment. Cosmetic dentists like Dr. Keith MacDonald from Archdale, NC provide the most powerful teeth whitening treatments available, many of which can whiten your teeth by 8-10 shades in a single session.
What if the Staining is Too Severe for a Whitening Treatment?
While professional whitening is highly effective, it’s not going to turn darkly stained teeth into a bright, white Hollywood smile. When staining is too heavy for even a professional whitening treatment, these other options may be able to make your smile beautiful again:
- Porcelain Veneers
- Dental Bonding
- Multiple Whitening Treatments
Repairing Gum Disease and Other Damage From Heavy Drinking
It’s not uncommon for dentists to see patients who haven’t been to a dental appointment in many years. Combined with consistent alcohol consumption, this can lead to gum disease, mouth sores, tooth decay, and other issues. No matter how bad your mouth has gotten or how painful it seems, it’s important to know that there are treatments for even the worst cases of dental neglect.
Experienced dentists who offer a wide range of treatments can provide a full-mouth reconstruction for patients that are suffering from the effects of dental neglect. For example, Dr. Roman Shlafer of Farmington, MI has over 30 years of experience in treating every type of dental patient. By scheduling a consultation with an experienced dentist, you can turn your oral health around and end up with the smile you deserve.
The Key is to Remember Your Teeth After the Party’s Over
There’s nothing wrong with having a few drinks to celebrate, socialize, or decompress on occasion. But it’s important to realize that when you’re drinking alcohol, it’s the absolute worst time to neglect your teeth. By remembering to take care of your teeth when the festivities are over you’ll keep your smile strong, healthy, and white, and you’ll avoid the devastating problems associated with alcohol consumption.