Thursday, March 1, 2012

How alcohol affects teeth and the oral cavity

There are many serious consequences to imbibing to excess. Alcoholic beverages can affect the mouth and teeth in many different ways. In recent times, some of the healthful benefits of moderate alcohol consumption have been noted. Certainly, in excess alcohol has been to be detrimental to health. The detrimental effects of alcohol on the mouth can range from gum disease to oral cancer.
Drinking can lead to gum disease
Researchers at the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine found a direct correlation between the amount of alcohol consumed and the severity of the risk for gum disease. With five drinks per week, the risk was 10 percent, and that rose to 40 percent for people who consumed 20 drinks per week. Gum disease can lead to more severe periodontal disease, which can very easily lead to tooth loss.
Periodontal disease and poor oral health have been shown to have a direct effect on systemic health. Periodontal pathogens have been implicated in a long list of systemic diseases, from heart disease to pancreatic cancer. While the effect of alcohol on tooth enamel isn't directly dangerous, many cocktails are mixed with sugary fruit juices or soft drinks, which have been proven to cause tooth erosion. When one drinks a sugary beverage, the sugars from the drink and the bacteria in the mouth combine to create acids. These acids then attack the tooth enamel, causing decay to resulting in cavities. Heavy drinking can also lead to frequent vomiting and the vomit is extremely acidic.
The most significant way in which drinking affects the mouth is increasing the risk of oral cancer. Evidence suggests that this is because alcohol breaks down into a substance called acetaldehyde, which can bind to proteins in the mouth. This can trigger an inflammatory response from the body. In the most severe cases, cancerous cells can develop. While oral cancer most often appears on the lips or the tongue, it can also occur on both the floor and the roof of the mouth or on the gums. This risk is significantly impacted when alcohol consumption is combined with tobacco use.
According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, the synergy between alcohol and tobacco results in a 15 times greater risk for the development of oral cancer. Even on its own, alcohol abuse is the second largest risk factor. It's thought because alcohol dehydrates the cell walls in the mouth, carcinogens can permeate the tissue more easily, resulting in development of cancer. Oral cancer is the fasting growing disease in 18-34 year old population. Sometimes, this is the very segment of the population that drinks alcohol in excess. Oral cancer is the major cause of preventable deaths in the United States.
Habits can affect dental cavities
Heavy drinkers may experience dry mouth at night and neglect both personal and professional oral health care. They may also consume higher levels of refined carbohydrates to satisfy their "munchies." All of these might increase their risk of developing cavities. Sometimes enlargement of the parotid salivary glands (glands which secrete saliva into the mouth) may be a sign of a chronic alcohol use problem. Drinking alcohol can have both direct and indirect effects on one's oral health, which also directly affects one's systemic health. Consuming alcohol is always best in moderation.


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