Excessive Drinking and Your Oral Health

glass of wineWe’ve all heard the negative effects that alcohol has on our bodies. High blood pressure, liver disease, heart disease, and stroke are all on that list, but did you know that alcohol can also have negative effects on your oral health? It is estimated that each year in the United States there will be more than 30,000 new cases of oral cancer diagnosed. Heavy alcohol consumption is a risk factor for oral cancer. 70% of oral cancer patients consume alcohol frequently according to the American Cancer Society.

Alcoholic beverages can also be bad for our oral health due to their high sugar and acid levels. Food and beverages with high amounts of sugar and acid contribute to tooth decay and gum disease. As the bacteria in our mouths consume sugar, they produce harmful acids that demineralize tooth enamel, weakening the tooth and paving the way for cavities. Sugar and acid combined with the dry mouth that alcohol causes creates a disastrous situation. Alcohol dehydrates the body, including the mouth so that saliva is temporarily not there for protection, and we have allowed the bacteria in our mouth to feast.

Like most things in life, drinking is best when done in moderation.  On a positive note, in a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers found that polyphenols in wine can block bacteria from cohering together and attaching to teeth. These polyphenols allow good bacteria to flourish while diminishing bad bacteria. Therefore, wine can prevent harmful bacteria from growing too readily. Red wine can also lower LDL cholesterol and help prevent clogging of arteries. However, any amount consumed over one glass could outweigh its positive effects. So, next time you want alcohol to unwind after a long day, keep your oral health in mind and stick to only one glass of red wine.

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