Surely one or two glasses a night won’t hurt?
“It’s common for people to think their alcohol habits aren’t problem because they don’t consider themselves to fall into a ‘binge drinking’ category,” says Roger. “Many adults get into the habit of regularly drinking a couple of large glasses of wine or beer at home or after work, not realising how much they’re actually consuming and that it could be exceeding their daily or weekly limit, putting them at risk of health problems, including mouth cancer.
“Exceeding your weekly limit is very easily done without realising. For example, one large glass of wine is 3.3 units of alcohol, so over the course of a week, one glass per night would take you to 23 units, which far exceeds the recommended weekly limit of 14 units. If you have two large glasses a night, this would be 46 units – over three times the weekly recommended guidelines. Dry January is a great reminder to take stock of how much we’re all drinking and take steps to cut back - both for our overall wellbeing and oral health.”
According to Roger, alcohol can have other harmful effects on oral health, but there are ways to limit the damage.
“Many types of alcohol are acidic and sugary, and even more so when they’re mixed with acidic soft drinks such as lemonade, cola and fruit juices,” says Roger. “Tooth enamel - the outer white protective layer on your teeth - is softer after being exposed to acid and can wear away over time. To help protect your teeth, drink through a straw where possible and always wait an hour before brushing your teeth to allow time for the enamel to harden again.”
“Alcohol is dehydrating and reduces saliva flow,” says Roger. “Saliva is very important in protecting teeth from decay. This means that when your mouth is dry, you’re at a higher risk of tooth decay. To help combat this, drink a glass of water between alcoholic drinks and stay hydrated. Sugar-free chewing gum is also handy, particularly if it contains xylitol, a natural sweetener that inhibits bacterial growth.”
Under the influence of alcohol, we’re also more likely to neglect our oral health routine and the inevitable stumble to the kebab shop after a big night may also be adding to your oral health woes says Roger.
“After a big night out, you’re more likely to graze on sugary junk food to combat a hangover, risking tooth decay. You may even go straight to bed without brushing your teeth, which you may get away with every so often, but if you live that lifestyle constantly, you may find your oral health begins to suffer.
“Regular visits to your dentist and a good oral health routine is the best way to keep on top of your oral health. Telling your dentist about your alcohol intake during your medical history enables them to work with you on keeping your mouth healthy and give you the best advice.”
“Alcohol is all about moderation and you can definitely enjoy it as part of a healthy lifestyle,” he says. “It’s just being aware of what you’re drinking, how much you’re drinking, and how often you’re drinking it.”
*Research conducted October 2015 by Atomik Research for the British Dental Health Foundation and Denplan. The survey was carried out online. Survey size 2024 UK adults. Please note, as of February 2017, Denplan has rebranded as Simplyhealth professionals.
**Source: British Dental Health Foundation, www.mouthcancer.org
Published: January 22nd, 2016