The New Year has just begun and it’s the start of resolutions for 2020. A popular resolution is to give up alcohol for the month after Christmas indulgence.
Whether you’re officially taking part in Dry January or just cutting back on your alcohol consumption this New Year, you might have your own set of reasons for doing so. But do you know the benefits of reducing your alcohol consumption for your oral health?
Clinical Director at Simplyhealth, Catherine Rutland, shares her top three reasons for going alcohol-free this month. Here's why cutting back can have long-term benefits for your oral health.
“Many alcoholic drinks are acidic and full of sugar. This can have a significant impact on tooth enamel,” says Catherine. “Tooth enamel is the white, protective white layer on our teeth. It is softer after being exposed to acid and sugar. This can wear away the enamel over time, leading to further dental problems.
“We also know that alcohol dehydrates the body, which means that there is reduced saliva flow in our mouths. Saliva is important because it protects our teeth from decay by neutralising the acids. So if your mouth is dry, you are at an even higher risk of tooth decay.”
If you are cutting back on alcohol, try alternating alcoholic drinks with a glass of water to help keep hydrated. This will space out the number of alcoholic drinks you’re having too.
“Red wine and drinks such as cola, often used as a mixers, can stain tooth enamel over time,” says Catherine. “A good tooth brushing routine and regular visits to your hygienist can help to remove stubborn surface stains.
“In addition, acidic alcoholic drinks such as prosecco can erode tooth enamel. This can reveal the darker dentine layer underneath. Choosing less acidic drinks can help. So can adjusting your alcohol habits longer term.”
Remember, the best drink to have for our teeth, and overall health, is water.
Excessive alcohol consumption is a significant risk factor associated with mouth cancer. Did you know that there are more than 640,000 cases of mouth cancer diagnosed each year worldwide?* According to the Oral Health Foundation, alcohol is linked to just under a third (30%) of all mouth cancers.**
“It’s very easy to exceed the recommended maximum of 14 units of alcohol each week. Many people don’t realise they could be putting themselves at risk” says Catherine. “For example, one large glass of wine is three units of alcohol. So over the course of a week, one glass per night would add up to 21 units, exceeding the recommended weekly limit.
“Making a note of how many units you’re consuming each week can help to avoid exceeding the weekly limit. Small but important steps like this can help to reduce the risk of mouth cancer, and provide long-term benefits beyond Dry January.”
Alcohol Change UK have a useful online calculator to work out how much alcohol you’re drinking. There is more helpful advice around Dry January and reducing your consumption on Alcohol Change UK.