When it comes to your teeth, there are many external factors that can cause problems. It’s common knowledge that sugary fruit juice and certain medications can be harmful to your teeth and gums, but there are other things that people consume that can cause damage to our oral health as well. Alcohol is known to affect other parts of the body, such as the liver, but did you know that drinking it also causes damage to your teeth and gums? Here, Flintlock Dental will take a closer look at how alcohol affects the mouth and oral hygiene.
How Alcohol Affects the Mouth
As with juice and coffee, wine is known to stain teeth over time, but even clear liquor and light beers can have a damaging effect on your teeth. Why? Alcohol dehydrates the body, which causes you to produce less saliva. Saliva is crucial for keeping your mouth healthy by protecting your teeth. Over time, dry mouth leaves plenty of room for bacteria and plaque to grow. If you regularly consume alcohol, you may start to notice some symptoms of dry mouth that can include bad breath, a shiny bright red tongue, and a parched feeling in your mouth that’s difficult to remove.
If you ignore these symptoms and continue to regularly consume alcoholic drinks, you’ll be walking down a path that leads to tooth decay and gum disease. The worst case issue from alcohol consumption in your mouth is oral cancer. When you drink alcohol, it binds to key proteins in your mouth, damages them, and can result in the formation of cancerous cells. These effects of alcohol are just some of the many reasons why you should make it to your regular dental checkups. This will help you and your dentist identify any problems that might arise early, before they become bigger, more expensive and painful issues.
The Many Sources of Alcohol
Most sources of the alcohol people drink are obvious – you know you’re drinking alcohol in your beer, wine, or cocktail. However, there are several products that contain alcohol that aren’t as obvious, unless you look closely at the label. Let’s take a look at some of those hidden alcohols now and see how they can affect your oral health.
Cold/Cough Syrup - Most cough and cold medicine has sugar added to enhance the taste, and some contain alcohol to help dissolve the ingredients. This is a double whammy for your oral health. The sugar will leave a coating on your teeth that feeds bacteria and the alcohol in the medicine will dehydrate you, leaving low saliva production. After taking medicine that includes sugar and alcohol, drink a full glass of water and brush your teeth if it’s the right time of day.
Mouthwash - Mouthwash might seem helpful for your oral health, but it can sometimes do more harm than good. Many people use mouthwash to clean out what the toothbrush misses while ridding the mouth of bacteria and freshening the breath. Most mouthwashes contain some amount of alcohol to work as a disinfectant. While it does do a good job at hiding bad breath, mouthwash that contains alcohol can cause dehydration, harm those oral proteins, and kill good bacteria along with the bad, so that more bad bacteria can move in to the space left behind. This can even make bad breath worse over time and leave you with more dental problems in the long run. Consult with your dentist about using a mouthwash, and consider using one that doesn’t contain alcohol.
Non-Prescription Drugs - Some medications such as throat sprays, sleep aides, fever reducers, and flu medications can contain alcohol. Like with cold medications, the amount of alcohol is low and oftentimes not harmful. However, if you do not have proper oral hygiene and use such medications frequently over a long period of time, the long-term effects of the alcohol in these medications can have painful consequences.
Protecting Your Teeth
No matter how much alcohol you consume, it’s important to take care of your oral health and keep up with proper oral hygiene daily. This does not mean you need to cut out alcohol consumption completely, it just means that you need to be proactive in taking care your oral health. Keep up with your regular visits to the dentist, and continue brushing and flossing daily. Knowing what you’re putting into your mouth and how to properly care for your teeth are just a couple of the things you can do to ensure that you have the healthiest smile possible.