What are the effects of alcohol addiction on oral health? Many people regularly consume small amounts of beer, wine, and liquor without experiencing any negative side effects. However, for some, alcohol can quickly evolve from a harmless habit into an all-consuming addiction. Of the many health consequences that accompany excessive alcohol intake, its damage to the mouth, teeth, and gums is amongst the most overlooked. Read on to learn how alcohol negatively impacts oral health and what can be done to mitigate the damage.
The Difference Between Casual Drinking and Problem Drinking
Of the 85% of Americans who report consuming alcohol at least once, about 6% of them will develop alcohol use disorder1. Casual drinkers have little need to worry about damage to their mouths, assuming they get regular dental checkups and take good care of their teeth. Heavy drinkers, on the other hand, may have cause for serious concern.
Direct Consequences of Problem Drinking
While specific measurements vary from institution to institution, it is widely accepted that one drink a day for women and two drinks a day per men is relatively low risk. Those who consume more than that are considered heavy drinkers. Alcohol contains high amounts of sugar, which is responsible for plaque buildup and tooth decay. Additionally, many drinkers mix their alcohol with sugary sodas, causing the negative effects to compound.
Dry mouth is another serious side effect of overindulgence. Alcohol causes dehydration, which is very damaging to the gums. Additionally, alcohol users are far more likely to develop Bruxism, which results in excessive teeth grinding2.
Indirect and Longterm Consequences
In the most serious of cases, alcohol addiction can entirely consume an individual’s life. Alcoholics are likely to lose their jobs, spend all of their money on alcohol, and make increasingly poor life decisions. Needless to say, these people are unlikely to prioritize a visit to the dentist. All of these factors combine to create a very unhealthy mouth, and greatly increase the chances of serious conditions such as Oral Cancer.
Most people would benefit from reducing their alcohol consumption. In cases where that is not possible, individuals should do their best to understand the risks of drinking, and make good decisions that mitigate the damage.
1: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Alcohol Facts and Statistics. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. From https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
2: Hill, A. (2022, April 16). Effects of drug addiction on Oral Health. NewMouth. Retrieved May 27, 2022, from https://www.newmouth.com/oral-health/effects/drug-addiction/
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Post title: The Effects of Alcohol Addiction on Oral Health