Alcohol and Oral Health: A Guide for Patients

Alcohol Oral Health

A visit to the dentist’s office is a great opportunity to ask questions about the best ways to care for our teeth, but what sort of advice should our healthcare professionals be giving us? There are some areas where the best advice is very clear cut, such as cutting down on added sugars, for example, which are proven to cause cavities, and brushing regularly to remove plaque build up and keep the mouth fresh and clean. There are other areas, however, which are a little more unclear, such as alcohol consumption.

Alcohol: Good or Bad?

The main dilemma surrounding alcohol consumption from a health perspective is that there are both advantages and disadvantages. On one side of the coin, wine and beer are shown to contain a number of different vitamins and minerals which can be beneficial to the body, and moderate alcohol consumption could even help to protect against heart disease. Research studies have also been published which strongly suggest that moderate alcohol consumption could reduce the risk of certain types of cancers, including colon cancer, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer, and also minimize the risk of stroke.

It appears that, from a general well being point of view, moderate alcohol consumption can be beneficial, but what about from an oral health standpoint? Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be any well documented evidence suggesting that alcohol could provide any benefits to oral health. In fact, around 75 percent of upper aerodigestive tract cancers are thought to be related to alcohol and tobacco use, alcohol has been shown to damage oral tissue, and it could also increase the risk of cavities because of the high sugar content. Overall, excessive drinking could wreak havoc on general oral health.

Everything in Moderation

So what sort of advice should your dentist be giving you regarding alcohol and oral health? Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong answer here, although many dentists will come back to the old saying ‘everything in moderation’. Due to the large number of health benefits associated with moderate alcohol consumption, it would be irresponsible to suggest that an otherwise healthy adult abstain from drinking alcohol completely. However, it would be equally irresponsible to advocate drinking, due to the substantial risks to oral health. ‘Everything in moderation’ appears to be a sensible middle ground.

Looking After Your Mouth

If you do decide to consume alcohol, make sure that you pay special attention to your everyday oral health. While the sugars in alcohol are bad for the teeth, you can help to minimize the effect by ensuring you brush regularly – at least twice a day – as well as floss, and, if necessary, use a mouthwash. This type of oral care routine can help to get rid of sugars from the teeth and lower the risk of decay. If you’re out on the town and don’t have access to toothpaste after drinking alcohol, even a swish with plain water is better than nothing, and it might be worth carrying some sugar-free gum with you at all times, too.

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