Alcohol abuse is one of the most common addictions in the United States. Most adults consume alcohol at some point in their lives, but when alcohol consumption becomes excessive and interferes with daily life, it is classified as alcohol abuse. It can then lead to alcohol dependence or alcoholism.
There are many consequences of alcohol abuse, including liver damage, cardiovascular disease, and impaired brain function. It can also lead to relationship problems and legal issues such as drunk driving.
Alcoholism can also have a profound effect on your oral health. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcoholism, you must be aware of the risks to your teeth and gums. Here are some ways alcoholism can impact your oral health and what you can do to mitigate the damage.
One of the most direct ways that alcoholism can impact your oral health is through an increased risk of tooth decay. Alcohol is a sugar-rich substance, and when consumed in excess, it can build up plaque on the teeth. Plaque is a sticky film that contains bacteria, and if it’s not removed regularly, it can lead to tooth decay.
In addition, alcohol consumption can dry out the mouth, which prevents saliva from doing its job of washing away food particles and bacteria. Saliva is essential for keeping the mouth clean and preventing tooth decay. When saliva production is diminished, the risk of tooth decay increases.
Gum disease is another serious concern for people who struggle with alcoholism. Gum disease can damage your gums and lead to tooth loss. Like tooth decay, gum disease is caused by a build-up of plaque on the teeth.
In addition, alcohol consumption can cause changes in hormone levels that make people more susceptible to gum disease. People who struggle with alcoholism are also more likely to have nutritional deficiencies that can contribute to gum disease.
Excessive alcohol consumption can also increase the risk of specific oral health problems, including tonsillitis. Alcohol can weaken the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off infections like tonsillitis.
Oral cancer is another potential complication of alcoholism. Alcohol consumption is a significant risk factor for developing oral cancer. Heavy drinking is when you consume more than four drinks per day for men or more than three drinks per day for women. People who consume more than four drinks per day are six times more likely to develop oral cancer than those who don’t drink alcohol.
Tobacco use further increases the risk of developing oral cancer. People who both drink heavily and smoke cigarettes are especially at risk.
Alcoholism can have a severe impact on your oral health. If you or someone you know struggles with alcoholism, you must be aware of the risks to your teeth and gums. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to the oral problems above. Thankfully, there are ways you can deal with them. Here are some of those ways.
Visit a Dental Office
One of the best ways to deal with alcohol’s damage to oral health is by visiting your local dental office at least twice a year. A dentist can catch any problems in their early stages and provide appropriate treatment. They can even help you prevent it. For example, tooth implants can help reduce periodontitis, reducing oral cancer. They can also spot the early signs of oral cancer and refer you to a specialist for further treatment.
Practice Good Oral Hygiene
Good oral hygiene is vital for everyone, but it’s especially crucial for those who struggle with alcoholism. Make sure to brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily. If alcohol consumption causes dry mouth, try using saliva-stimulating products or sugar-free gum to increase saliva production.
The most effective way to protect your oral health from the consequences of alcoholism is to quit drinking altogether. This can be difficult, but many resources are available to help individuals overcome their alcohol dependence. Here are some of those resources:
You don’t have to fight alcoholism alone. Support groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous, provide a community of individuals facing similar struggles and offer guidance on how to live alcohol-free.
Seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor can also be beneficial in overcoming alcoholism. A therapist can provide individualized support and create a personalized plan for quitting drinking.
Medication may sometimes be necessary to manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings while quitting drinking. Talk to your doctor about what options are available for you.
Taking care of your oral health is vital for overall health and well-being. If you struggle with alcoholism, remember that it’s never too late to seek help and take steps toward protecting your teeth and gums from the harmful effects of alcohol.