Teeth and tipple: Alcohol and oral health
At your National Dental Care practice, when your dentist asks you questions about your lifestyle, they’re not just being nosy. We know there’s a significant connection between your habits and lifestyle choices and the health of your teeth and gums. Asking questions helps us make those connections and keep your teeth on track.
Alcohol is considered part of the Aussie way of life. On a 35 degree scorcher, having a ‘tinny’ or a ‘brew’ is almost a given. Most of us know when to stop, and we enjoy alcohol moderately and responsibly. Whatever the bevvy, when it comes to oral health – alcohol is no friend to your teeth and gums.
This iconic home-grown fundraiser began in 2008 and just seven years later, Dry July boasts over 90,000 participants and has raised more than $20 million to help make life better for cancer sufferers across Australia and New Zealand.
It’s an approach that stretches beyond its direct participants. I’m sure you’ve seen your Facebook feed light up with friends pledging an alcohol-free July in return for donations. Because of the personal nature of this medium, we can see the sacrifice in context… the bigger the ‘party boy,’ the bigger the challenge, the higher the donations. Watching personalised journeys is a meaningful reminder of the connection between alcohol and cancer.
It’s widely known that more than 21 standard drinks per week is classified as alcohol abuse. What’s not as widely known is that alcohol abuse is a risk factor for oral cancer and is the second most significant risk after tobacco. When both substances are used, it’s the perfect storm, with alcohol dehydrating the cells in the mouth tissue, leaving them more vulnerable to carcinogens from tobacco. People who use both alcohol and tobacco are 15 times more at risk of developing oral cancer than those who don’t drink and smoke.
We all experience a dry mouth when drinking alcohol every so often. However, when you consume regularly and heavily, your salivary glands can swell up which lessens their saliva production. If this is a frequent occurrence, a chronic dry mouth can cause tooth decay and let bacteria thrive. If wine is your poison then the acid can seriously erode, discolour and increase sensitivity in your teeth. If your poison is something sweeter, it probably contains more carbs. Drinking these in excess can compound dry mouth and cause decay.
Drink water in-between sips
This simple action will reduce acidity and dehydration and help fend off erosion and sensitivity. It’ll probably lessen your hangover too.
Chew sugar-free gum
Throughout your night, chew on some gum. This’ll get your saliva flowing which will help shield your pearly whites from erosion and sugar attack.
Rinse with a bi-carb soda
Make a DIY mouthwash by mixing a teaspoon of bi-carb soda in a glass of water before you brush your teeth. This neutralises acids and stops your tooth brushing wearing away already-softened enamel.
If you taste alcoholic drinks for a job, make it a priority to see your National Dental Care dentist regularly and make a preventative plan with them. They may also suggest using higher-strength fluoride toothpaste and a calcium-rich topical treatment.