Alcoholism and Oral Health

Alcoholism is the abuse of alcohol, meaning consuming more than the average amount of alcoholic drinks and beverages than recommended by doctors, physicians, and health organizations. The exact amount to be consumed daily or weekly is typically set by the leading health organization of the country, and followed by the doctors and physicians of that country, and is different from one country to another, but generally should exceed 8- 10 drinks a week for women, and 15-20 drinks for men.

Is alcohol always dangerous?

Studies have shown that consuming alcohol in average amounts is not dangerous, but beneficial as well. Average consumption (meaning 1-2 drinks per day) can decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke, and the antioxidants present in the red wine can be efficient in controlling cardiovascular disease.

What are the dangerous effects of alcohol abuse on the general health?

Alcohol is absorbed by the stomach, enters the bloodstream and reaches the brain and central nervous system. The rest is processed by the liver, which means that there is a risk of stomach ulcers, artery clogging, and liver cirrhosis. The effects on the brain include memory loss, impaired motor functions, and alcohol dependency.

Alcohol is the second leading cause of cancer in human beings, second only to smoking. Also, the risk of heart disease, impotence, wrinkles and early aging increases significantly with heavy alcohol consumption.

What about the effect of alcohol on teeth?

Alcohol is consumed through the mouth, meaning it is the most affected organ of all, and since most alcoholic drinks contain added sodas and\or citrus drinks, this multiplies the effects. Oral diseases related to alcohol abuse are numerous and diverse, including:

  • Teeth staining (as they contain artificial colors and chromogenic bacteria).
  • Bad breath, as alcohol disrupts the balance of bacteria in the mouth.
  • Dryness of the mouth and as saliva is a buffer and can wash away the food remnant and plaque and clean the teeth, the risk of dental decay and gum disease increases.
  • Alcohol is acidic in origin, which causes demineralization and softening of the enamel (outer surface of the teeth), also leading to increased decay rate.
  • Alcohol abuse can lead to vomiting, and since the stomach contents are highly acidic, this causes chemical erosion of the teeth. Significant erosion leads to teeth sensitivity, decay, and unsightly appearance.
  • Oral cancer risk is multiplied six times with alcohol abusers compared to average risk.

                                  What can a patient do to avoid these effects?

Ultimately, the patient should control his\her alcohol intake. Patients who suffer from alcoholism should seek help immediately, and help centers are available almost everywhere. People who consume average amounts of alcohol are at lower risk of developing the before-mentioned problems, but it is better to be safe than sorry. Brushing directly after drinking is not recommended, but heavy rinsing of your mouth is highly advisable. Using a higher fluoride containing tooth paste and mouth wash is also advisable. Patients who suffer from excessive vomiting should seek the help of their physician as soon as they can.

It is important to understand that removal of the cause of the disease is the most important factor in controlling any disease. All the cleaning and maintenance in the world will do nothing if the patient doesn’t seek to control his\her drinking problem. But, the alcoholic shouldn't despair: help is available! Millions of people have overcome alcoholism, and there are groups and medical professionals who can help the alcoholic learn to control the disease.

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