Understanding How Alcohol Can Impact On Oral Health
Alcohol consumption has been linked to an array of health problems, but its impact on oral health seems to be mentioned less often. A weekend tipple is common with Australians, but regular alcohol consumption can increase your risk of developing certain oral health problems. If you enjoy a drink, it's a good idea to know the risks and ensure you keep up with your regular dental check-ups to allow any early signs of damage to your teeth and gums to be spotted by your dentist. Here's an overview of how alcohol can impact oral health.
Alcoholic drinks tend to be acidic and can erode tooth enamel. This leads to your teeth becoming discoloured, which some people feel quite self-conscious about. The rate at which enamel erodes is different for everyone, but if you're noticing your teeth beginning to have a yellow tinge, this is likely the cause. Enamel erosion doesn't just cause tooth discolouration; it can also lead to tooth sensitivity and bacterial infection, as bacteria can access the soft tooth pulp through areas of damaged enamel.
Alcoholic drinks tend to cause dryness in your mouth. This reduction in saliva creates an environment that allows bacteria to thrive and plaque can build up quickly on the surface of your teeth. Left untreated, plaque can cause dental decay and increase your chance of needing fillings. Plaque also forms when you drink a lot of sugary alcoholic drinks, so if you've had a night out and you get home late don't skip brushing your teeth.
Drinking alcohol is associated with an increased risk of developing oral cancer, and this risk increases further if you drink and smoke. Signs of oral cancer include the presence of red or white patches anywhere in your mouth, bleeding, swollen gums and localised pain or tenderness. Oral cancer is treated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery, and treatment outcome often depends on how early the condition is diagnosed.
Accidental Dental Trauma
Drinking alcohol, particularly if you tend to get drunk, is associated with an increased risk of accidental dental trauma. This tends to occur as a result of falling over and can result in tooth loss, broken teeth or damage to the soft tissues of your mouth. If you experience accidental dental trauma, seek treatment right away from either an out-of-hours dentist or the emergency department at your local hospital.
If you have concerns about damage caused to your oral health by alcohol, or if you're overdue a check-up, contact your dentist.