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Are YOU doing Dry January?

14-01-2020

Dry January and Oral Health

Dry January is the annual movement through which millions of people give up alcohol for the month of January. It is run by the charity Alcohol Change UK

Why your mouth will thank you for doing dry January!

Giving yourself a break from the alcohol in January will allow your body and mouth to reset itself.

Your mouth will also appreciate the break because drinking too much alcohol can have a substantial impact on your oral health.

It can lead to the development of diseases such as gum disease, tooth decay, as well as mouth and throat cancers.  It is estimated that almost 1 in 5 of us that drink occasionally display signs of severe gum disease.

So, why is alcohol so bad for your mouth?

Any alcoholic drinks, clear or coloured, can be very acidic and be high in sugar.

The acidity can cause erosion of the enamel on your teeth, making your teeth more vulnerable, possibly leading to pain and sensitivity.

The high level of sugar can later cause tooth decay as well.

Drinking alcohol encourages more bad bacteria to develop in our mouth, reducing the saliva flow which will result in an uncomfortable dry mouth and bad breath. Reduced saliva also means the bacteria happily hangs around interacting with all the food and drink on your teeth, causing your breath to smell.

Dark-coloured alcohol such as red wine can also cause staining on your teeth.

How big is the problem?

While having the odd drink is okay, it is those that drink regularly or in large amounts that are putting themselves more at risk.

The latest figures estimate that around 40 million British adults regularly consume alcoholic drinks and while many do so moderately, some do not.

Drinking alcohol to excess is also linked to one in three mouth cancers – a disease which has increased by 135% in the UK over the last 20 years.

In England in 2017/18, there were an estimated 1.2 million hospital admissions related to alcohol consumption.

The rate of older people over the age of 65 admitted to hospitals in England for alcohol-related conditions has risen by 14% since 2008/09.

Top tips on how to reduce the effects of alcohol on the teeth and mouth

While abstaining from alcohol will go far in improving our oral health, there are ways to find a balance between drinking and a healthy mouth. That being said, here are some tips on how to do just that:

  1. Drink water after an alcoholic drink: It helps to balance pH levels in your mouth and wash some of the sugar away.
  2. Try and keep the alcohol confined to mealtimes: By drinking at meal times it will help to reduce the intensity of the acid “attack” on our teeth and weaken its effects.
  3. Use mouthwash: Mouthwash has a similar effect to water. It helps wash acidic substances such as alcoholic drinks from our teeth. Certain mouthwashes can coat our teeth in a protective shield and may help protect us against problems like gum disease or sensitive teeth. To check the benefits of each mouthwash, it is important to read the packaging prior to purchase.

Cutting back on alcohol in January alone might not seem to make a lot of difference to your mouth cancer risk in the short-term, but studies have shown that taking part in Dry January makes you more likely to adjust your drinking habits going forward, which will help to reduce your risk of developing the disease in the long-term.