Patients frequently inquire, “Can the consumption of alcohol impact my oral health?” Surprisingly, there are several reasons why that glass of wine might not be ideal for the well-being of your teeth.
Beyond creating an excessively acidic oral environment, alcohol possesses desiccant and diuretic properties that lead to severe dehydration of oral tissues. This rapid depletion of moisture from oral tissues hinders saliva glands’ ability to maintain an adequate saliva flow, resulting in dry mouth. Saliva not only provides moisture but also contains antibacterial properties crucial for inhibiting the growth of anaerobic bacteria – a destructive type of oral bacteria responsible for conditions such as tooth decay, gingivitis, chronic bad breath, and periodontitis.
So, what exactly are anaerobic bacteria?
In situations where there is insufficient saliva to cleanse the mouth of debris (food particles, dead skin cells, mucous) and maintain proper oral hygiene, anaerobic bacteria thrive. Flourishing in dry, airless environments, these bacteria also multiply rapidly when presented with a continuous supply of proteins (food debris). This leads to the formation of plaque layers on teeth, contributing to the demineralization of tooth enamel unless effectively removed through brushing and professional dental cleanings.
Alcohol’s association with oral cancer:
Acetaldehyde, a chemical compound produced during the liver’s metabolism of alcohol, remains in oral tissues. Known for its ability to cause genetic mutations and recognized as a carcinogen, acetaldehyde contributes to the discomfort associated with hangovers. While the primary metabolism of alcohol occurs in the liver, evidence suggests that enzymes in the mouth could facilitate the accumulation of acetaldehyde in oral tissues.
When combined with suboptimal oral health, smoking, and other detrimental lifestyle factors, alcohol may be considered a significant contributing factor in the development of oral cancer.
Even for those who consume alcohol occasionally or abstain entirely, maintaining awareness of symptoms indicative of oral cancer improves the chances of successful recovery through early treatment. Signs include the presence of red or white speckled patches in the mouth, unexplained bleeding, lumps or swellings, persistent ear or throat pain, and areas of numbness in the mouth or on the face.
For any inquiries regarding the relationship between alcohol and oral health, feel free to discuss them with Dr. Sindledecker and Dr. Saltz during your next visit to our Boca Raton office.