Alcohol and Your Oral Health

What does alcohol do to your mouth? It’s Friday, and maybe you and some coworkers are planning on celebrating the end of the work week with cocktails at happy hour. Perhaps you plan to spend the weekend watching baseball and drinking beer. While a couple of drinks probably won’t hurt, heavier drinking can have negative consequences for the health of your mouth. Today, our Lake Forest cosmetic dentist, Dr. James Fondriest, shares some information about how alcohol can affect your oral health.

Corrosive Cocktails

Alcohol by itself doesn’t contain sugar; but several alcoholic cocktails are loaded with it. Sugar combines with bacteria in our mouth to form acids that can eat away tooth enamel, paving the way for gum disease and cavities. When you throw more acid into the mix, the effect is compounded. Take for instance a gin and tonic: the gin is mixed with tonic water—which has 22 grams of sugar in eight ounces—and lime. The acid in the lime adds to the corrosive effect of the fizzy, sugary beverage.

Alcohol and Oral Cancer

Consistent alcohol consumption has been shown to significantly increase the risk of developing cancers of the mouth and throat, as well as the stomach and liver. According to the American Cancer Society, 75 to 80 percent of patients with oral cancer are frequent drinkers. Heavy drinkers are also more likely to smoke cigarettes, which by themselves are bad for oral health, but are even more carcinogenic when combined with alcohol, studies have shown.

Other Oral Problems

The image of the toothless drunk might not be too far from the truth. A study by the Medical College of Georgia School of Dentistry found that alcohol abusers were more likely to develop periodontitis, a severe stage of gum disease, due to alcohol-related gum recession. Alcohol also dries out the mouth, reducing saliva and increasing your chances of developing tooth decay and bad breath.
Excessive drinking can cause:

  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Poor dental hygiene
  • Poor healing after dental surgery

Damage Control

Moderate drinking won’t severely affect your oral health, but remaining diligent in your at-home oral care and scheduling dental cleanings and exams every six months can help keep your smile healthy. A hygienist will clean and polish your teeth and Dr. Fondriest will check your mouth for signs of tooth decay, gum disease, and oral cancer. To schedule a consultation, call our Lake Forest dental office at (847) 234-0517.

Our practice serves the Chicago metropolitan area including the North Shore and Northwest suburbs