Tis’ the season to be jolly! With the holiday season upon use comes many occasions to enjoy alcoholic treats such as eggnog, spiced cider, wine and beer. However, if you are concerned about protecting your oral health, you will want to moderate your alcohol consumption this holiday season. This is because there is also a lot of research linking excess alcohol use with oral health problems such as oral cancer, tooth decay and periodontal disease.
Heavy drinking is a known risk factor for oral cancer: a particularly aggressive form of cancer that occurs within the oral cavity. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, about 70% of oral cancer patients consume alcohol regularly. And, according to statistics reported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are more than 30,000 new cases of oral cancer diagnosed in the United States each year.
When you combine regular alcohol use with cigarette smoking, the risk for oral cancer goes up even more significantly.
In addition to oral cancer, there are other oral health problems that affect heavy drinkers more often than those who enjoy alcohol in moderation or abstain from drinking alcohol. These include tooth decay and periodontal disease. This is not surprising as individuals with alcohol problems tend to neglect other healthy habits including flossing, brushing, and eating a healthy diet. While this has not been firmly established, a small study conducted at an alcohol rehabilitation center found that residents had a higher incidence of periodontal disease and tooth decay, most likely attributed to poor dental hygiene.
When alcohol is used in moderation, there are some positive benefits that can be associated with alcohol use. This includes some heart-protective effects that are associated with low-to-moderate average alcohol consumption. Specifically, drinking red wine in small quantities has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol. This heart-protective property has been attributed to the antioxidant Reservratrol that is found in red wine.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heavy drinking for men is defined as consuming an average of more than two alcoholic drinks per day. For women, heavy drinking is defined as consuming more than an average of one alcoholic drink per day. If your drinking falls outside this range, you may want to consider making lifestyle changes that will greatly benefit your oral health as well as your overall health.