January 1st is the beginning of healthy resolutions for many people. And while ringing in the new year with alcohol is often traditional, it’s also no surprise that it is commonly referred to as National Hangover Day after all those New Year’s Eve toasts. While alcohol consumption can make an occasion more festive and enjoyable, much like sugar, it should also be limited.
New Year’s Resolutions
For a healthy body and smile, we recommend the following New Year’s goals to promote better health overall.
- Freely indulge in all the fruits and vegetables your heart desires. These will boost your immune system and help protect you from poor oral health like periodontal (gum) disease.
- Make this the year you quit using tobacco. Did you know that smokers are nearly twice as likely to lose their pearly whites as those who don’t smoke? This resolution can boost your oral health immeasurably!
- Brush (at least) twice daily and floss once per day. While your toothbrush cleans the teeth, flossing will reach between the teeth and under the gumline, ensuring that all tooth surfaces receive the care they need to prevent plaque buildup.
- Visit your dental team routinely as recommended by your dentist. Coming in at least twice a year allows our team to spot developing dental issues before they advance.
Why Alcohol Is Bad for Teeth
Did you know that sugar is the primary food for the harmful bacteria in your mouth? Quickly turning into dental plaque, this multiplying oral bacteria film infects your gums and releases enamel-eroding acid that causes gum disease and tooth decay. Since alcohol is often mixed with sodas and energy drinks high in sugar and acids, it can seriously hurt your teeth and gums. While drinking occasionally (just like eating sweets on occasion) won’t damage teeth if you clean well afterward, drinking too much definitely can, as it attacks tooth enamel. And while normal healthy saliva levels will neutralize oral acid, it can’t do that if you are downing multiple drinks after another and exposing your pearly whites to corrosive acid attacks.
Of course, most kinds of alcohol are highly acidic on their own, making them harmful to your enamel and even more so if you forget to brush your teeth before bed after indulging in a night of drinking. Speaking of saliva, alcohol actively dehydrates your mouth and body, diminishing saliva levels, which means insufficient saliva in your mouth. Low levels of saliva leave you vulnerable to tooth sensitivity, increased risk of decay and even oral infection.
How Alcohol Impacts Your Gums
If you consume alcohol frequently, you are exposing yourself to a greater risk of experiencing gum disease. You will also experience more dental plaque that builds up around your gums so they become irritated and diseased. And that’s not all. If you are already battling gum disease, frequent drinking can actually worsen your condition as it prevents your gum tissue from healing properly.
You’ll also be at greater risk of cancer if you are a chronic drinker. In fact, chronic drinking is the second biggest risk factor for oral cancer! Chronic alcohol consumption leads to oral cancer of the lips, cheeks, tongue, and sinuses. While cancer spotted in the early stages can often be successfully treated and pushed into remission, but once it has progressed, it is often life-threatening. The good news is routine dental checkups permit our dentist to perform an oral cancer screening that allows us to spot this insidious disease in its early stages.
When it comes to your oral and general health, taking good care of yourself can make all the difference to your quality of life. As this new year starts, limiting your alcohol intake to special occasions makes good sense. We applaud your efforts to be mindful of alcohol consumption to protect your smile. Give us a call to schedule your next dental visit!