The Pubs Are Opening Again But Caution Is Important – For Oral Health Reasons Too!
A look at the effect of alcohol on our teeth and soft tissues of the mouth
We are sure that many of our Addlestone patients will have been pleased to hear the news about the reopening of the pubs from the 4th July. It will almost certainly be very different from what we knew as a night out pre lockdown, but for most, it is a welcome step towards some sort of normality.
Going to the pub for a drink and to meet friends has long been a standard night out in the UK.
But unfortunately it isn’t free from potential consequences for our health, with coronovirus still circulating and also if we drink more regularly or in greater quantities than we should. Problems with the liver, heart and bladder are well known, but fewer people are, perhaps, less familiar with the damage that alcohol can do to our teeth and gums.
As we have mentioned in a number of our blogs, poor gum health can contribute to several problems, including tooth loss. As the bacteria attacks and weakens the bone that supports our teeth, they become loose and wobbly and may eventually fall out. Providing that patients of the Synergy Clinic have their gum health checked and managed through appointments with our dental hygienist, most cases of gum disease should not reach this stage. Prevention too is important and this also means being aware of how alcohol can play a role in gum health.
The first issue is that many alcoholic drinks are high in sugar. However natural these are, sugar provides an excellent food source for potentially harmful bacteria, causing their numbers to rise. There is also a risk that we may not brush our teeth as well, or even at all, before we go to bed if we have been drinking. This means that we may go to sleep with our teeth and gums coated in sugars which can lead to decay.
Alcohol also creates another problem for the health of our mouth. As some of you will probably be aware, drinking causes dehydration which means that we wake up with a very dry mouth. Bacteria thrive in this environment, making gum disease more likely to occur. If you do drink, try to do so in moderation and make sure to drink plenty of water to avoid the consequences of a dry mouth.
An even more serious problem than gum disease, is the threat of oral cancer. Although not as well known as some other forms of cancer, it can still be very deadly with approximately 4000 people dying each year from it (or around 11 a day). Those who survive may be left with facial disfigurements and potentially difficulties with speech or with swallowing their food.
Where oral cancer is concerned, prevention is definitely better than treatment. The best way to minimise the risk is through quitting smoking if you currently do as this is the biggest risk factor for oral cancer. Also, moderate your alcohol intake and make sure to have a dental checkup every 6 months and more frequently if you are in a high risk group.
When you see one of our Addlestone dentists for a checkup, we not only check your teeth and gums, but also the other soft tissues of your mouth, including the tongue and cheeks. Because we are in an ideal situation to check your mouth at regular intervals, our role in spotting potential oral cancer is important.
We can’t diagnose cancers, but if we see something that gives cause for concern, such as red or white patches or lumps, we may refer you to your GP for further investigation. It is important to remember that this is purely precautionary and patients should not panic. There may be other, more innocent, reasons for the problem but, as early treatment usually provides a better outcome if cancer is detected, it makes sense to have this investigated as soon as possible.
We probably don’t need to tell you that the risk of accidents is much higher if you have drunk too much alcohol. Falls and collisions with objects can result in broken teeth, or worse. If you do suffer damage in this way, remember to go to the A&E first if you have suffered any head trauma and then arrange an appointment to have your teeth checked by one of our dental team.
By all means, please enjoy yourself responsibly but remember the harm that excess drinking can cause and drink sensibly. Remember too to make sure that you have a regular check up at the Synergy Clinic. You can arrange an appointment by calling us on 01932 856541.