Wickford dentist, Dr Nabiha Farooqi, looks at how reducing our drinking can benefit our oral health.
Some of you will possibly acknowledge that you drank too much over the Christmas and New Year holiday and perhaps as a consequence of this, be taking part in Dry January, when you don’t drink alcohol for a whole month. Whilst taking part in this will certainly give your liver a bit of a well earned rest, just giving up for one month is unlikely to produce any long term benefits unfortunately.
At the Cygnet Dental Practice, we see a number of problems that have either been caused by or contributed to by regular or excessive alcohol consumption. Although we appreciate that many people do like to have a drink, there has to be a sensible approach to this.
A new approach to alcohol
As an individual, you will know how much you drink (although some may underestimate this amount). If you have a couple of glasses of wine or beer a week, you probably need to do nothing about this. Although no alcohol is thought to be the best option, a small amount such as this will do little harm to your health or your teeth and gums as long as you clean your teeth correctly.
At the other extreme, there will be those who drink excessively and are putting their health, and lives at risk. If you acknowledge this yourself, or have been told by loved ones around you that you drink too much, a good place to start would be to discuss this with your GP who should be able to offer help.
Most people probably fall somewhere in the middle with their drinking habits. Sometimes this may be a few drinks every evening after work, whilst for others, probably younger people, it may revolve around concentrated bouts of drinking, sometimes referred to as ‘binge drinking’.
For those who drink regularly or heavily, the start of a new year is a good time to look at how you can cut down on your alcohol intake.
Broken teeth and emergency dental appointments
It is well established that heavy regular drinking leads to a number of health issues, often relating to the heart and liver. It can also have a devastating effect on your teeth and gums, with significant tooth loss a real possibility.
For those that ‘binge drink’, whilst this allows time for recovery between drinking sessions, there is the additional risk of accidents caused by being drunk. Falls and collisions are a common reason why dentists around the country receive phone calls, often on a Monday morning, asking for an emergency dental appointment due to broken teeth!
We have all been teenagers and young adults, and the pressures of a peer group can be significant. Refusing a drink can be difficult but asking for a soft drink or a non alcoholic beer every now and then is a good place to start. If you feel that you can’t do this and are a beer drinker, try to drink lower alcohol content beer rather than stronger ones.
For those who drink regularly but not necessarily heavily, try cutting down just a little each day and perhaps initially start by adding a ‘dry day’ into your week, gradually increasing these. Whilst this type of drinking may cause less accidents than binge drinking, it does still pose a real threat to your teeth and gums.
Aside from the sugar content in these drinks, this type of drinking often leads to a dry mouth whilst you sleep. This allows the number of potentially harmful bacteria in our mouth to grow overnight. Where this happens on a regular basis, gingivitis and periodontitis are very likely. If left untreated, this will often lead to tooth loss too.
Looking after your teeth when you drink
Although we encourage our Wickford and Rayleigh patients to reduce their alcohol consumption, there are still ways that you can help to minimise any potential damage whilst doing so. Following this simple advice gives you a fighting chance of avoiding major dental issues whilst you attempt to reduce your intake.
Drink plenty of water – This will not only flush away sugars from your teeth but will help to hydrate you. This both helps to reduce the effects of alcohol, hopefully resulting in less accidents, and also helps to avoid a dry mouth, keeping it healthier while you sleep.
Brush your teeth well – This applies to everyone, but if you drink, you may sometimes forget to do this or do so ineffectively. Make sure that brushing your teeth both morning and night, and adding flossing to this as well, where possible, are a regular part of your oral health care that you never miss.
Seek professional care – Both dental and hygienist visits are essential for healthy teeth and gums and even more so if you drink regularly. The Cygnet Dental Practice offers both private and NHS dental care to help ensure that this is accessible for everyone.
If you are attempting to stop or reduce your drinking, we wish you the very best of luck and are here to offer any advice about your dental care related to this, should you wish to discuss it with us. Appointments to see a dentist at our Wickford dental clinic can be made by calling us on 01268 733078.