Many partake in the occasional cocktail on special occasions. But for those who drink alcohol on a more regular basis, they can suffer from several short-term and long-term health problems. While most people know the damage that alcohol can wreak on your liver, we don’t think about what happens in our mouth when we drink alcohol. Alcohol is a risk factor for oral and other cancers.

Here we share the effects that alcohol can have on the oral health of even moderate drinkers.

What is Moderate and Heavy Drinking

The CDC defines moderate alcohol consumption as one drink each day for women and two drinks per day for men.  Heavy drinking is defined as more than eight drinks per week for women and 15 or more for men.

How Alcohol Affects the Body

While you can drink moderately and still lead a healthy lifestyle, it will affect your gums, oral tissues, and your teeth.

Dry Mouth

The production of saliva that keeps your mouth clean by washing away harmful acids slows down causing dehydration, plaque buildup, and permanent tooth loss. When your mouth is dry you can develop periodontitis. Those with this condition suffer from gum bleeding and recession, infections in the mouth. Reduced saliva can also cause halitosis or bad breath.

If you would like to enjoy a drink, make sure you sip water to help to replenish saliva. After you drink brush your teeth and use mouthwash to get rid of the sugar that attracts bacteria.

Stained Teeth

The chromogens in the colors of alcohol contain acid. They attach to the enamel of the tooth and stain them. For beer drinkers the acidic dark barley stains the teeth. Drinking with a straw can help to minimize this. When you enjoy wine or mixed drinks the dark sodas also contain a large amount of sugar and stain the teeth.

Oral Cancer

Cancerous cells that spread on the lining of your lips, cheeks, gums, teeth, tongue, and oral cavity cause oral cancer. Acetaldehyde that the alcohol turns into when it enters your body damages DNA and stops your cells from repairing any damage.  It is important that it is detected early and treated as soon as possible. Regular dental visits can help you detect cancer giving you a better chance to fight the disease.

Other Items in Your Drink that Can Affect Your Oral Health

  • The ice in your drink, if chewed, can break the teeth.
  • Citrus included in your drinks can erode the enamel.

Follow These Tips to Keep Your Mouth Healthy

  • Drink in moderation. If you need to get help by speaking with a medical professional
  • Drink water to wash away food, sugar, and acids.
  • Brush and floss your teeth daily.
  • Keep your regular dental appointments to reduce tartar and plaque buildup.

Alcohol consumption can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, oral cancer, dry mouth, and the tendency to neglect your oral health and miss dental visits. We are dedicated to educating our patients about a healthy lifestyle to maintain oral health. If you’re experiencing gum pain, bleeding, or tooth decay, make an appointment today for a consultation. We can help you get on the road to better oral health.

Our Long Beach dental team is accepting new patients, and we eagerly await your call! Book with us now at 562-434-6414, or use this link to request an appointment online.