If one of your New Year’s resolutions involved improving your health—and more specifically, cutting out alcohol either temporarily or permanently—you aren’t alone.
Millions of people around the world are participating in “Dry January,” an annual event where they abstain from alcohol during January (and beyond).
Cutting out alcohol has many numerous health benefits, ranging from weight loss and improved hydration to better sleep and no hangovers.
But did you know that reducing or eliminating alcohol intake can even improve your oral health?
How Alcohol Harms Your Mouth
You know that alcohol is bad for your liver. But it can also do a number on your mouth.
It Dehydrates Your Mouth
First, alcohol is dehydrating. It reduces fluids throughout your body, and that includes your mouth. You produce less saliva when you’re dehydrated after drinking, and that leads to a dry mouth.
When your mouth is dry, it’s easier for bacteria to develop. Over time, bacteria can develop into plaque, which coats teeth and can cause tooth decay (cavities) and even tooth loss. In addition, dry mouth is one of the top causes of bad breath, which can be highly embarrassing and even detrimental to your career!
It’s Sugary and Acidic
Second, alcohol is often both acidic and high in sugar. When your teeth are exposed to acid, whether it’s in food or drinks, it can wear down the enamel that protects them. Loss of enamel results in weak teeth that are more sensitive to extreme temperatures and more susceptible to tooth decay.
Sugary alcoholic drinks are the worst of the worst. Everyone knows sugar is enemy number one for oral health, and when it’s combined with something that’s both acidic and dehydrating, the results can be devastating for teeth.
It Stains Your Teeth
Finally, certain types of alcohol can harm the appearance of your teeth. Dark beer, red wine, and certain types of liquor and liqueurs can stain and discolor teeth the same way that coffee and cigarettes can.
It Can Increase the Risk of Oral Cancers
The Oral Cancer Foundation says that while oral cancer is most closely linked to tobacco usage, alcohol consumption can also play a role. Alcohol causes inflammation in the body, including in the mouth. Over time, frequent drinking can cause chronic inflammation of the lips, gums, tongue, and esophagus.
Inflammation is a major risk factor for cancer, especially when it goes untreated and worsens over many years.
What Should You Do Before or After Drinking to Protect Your Mouth?
If your Dry January turns into a “Dry Lifetime,” then you won’t have to worry about this next part. But whether you aren’t participating or plan on resuming your intake after January, here are a few ways to reduce the negative effects alcohol has on your oral health:
Reduce your consumption—When it comes to alcohol-related health problems, quantity and frequency matter. Simply reducing how much and how often you drink can make your mouth healthier and reduce your risk of developing many oral health problems.
Drink with a straw—Using a straw to drink alcohol, especially when it’s sugary or acidic, helps reduce the negative impact it has on teeth. That’s because liquid consumed through a straw mostly bypasses teeth, and that means less damage to tooth enamel and less sugar left behind that can turn into plaque.
Choose clear liquids—Drinking alcohol that’s light in color, whether it’s beer, wine, or liquor, will result in less staining of your teeth.
Avoid sugary drinks—Stay away from drinks that come pre-loaded with sugar and drinks that call for the addition of sugary mixers.
Drink water between drinks—Drinking water between drinks not only helps you moderate your intake, but it also keeps you hydrated and washes away the acid and sugar from your beverages.
Maintain a good oral health regime—Always brush twice per day and floss at least once per day, even after you’ve been drinking. In addition, continue seeing a dentist at least twice per year for checkups and cleanings.
We’re Here to Get Your Oral Health in Tip-Top Shape
At 101st Adult Dentistry, we work with patients with all levels of oral health. From fanatical brushers and flossers to people who haven’t seen a dentist in years, it’s our goal to ensure all of our patients get the care and attention they need to maximize their oral health.
Whether you need routine cleanings and checkups, treatment for gum disease, or even dental work such as crowns or bridges, you can count on our team’s experience and expertise to give you peace of mind and a healthy mouth.
Contact us today to request an appointment.