Could a dry July boost your oral health? The benefits of having a break from the booze
It seems that Australians just love to drink. Whether it’s a glass of red from the Barossa Valley or you prefer a Milton Mango (which is XXXX Gold for those who haven’t caught on yet), there is no questioning our alcohol obsession. So what happens when thousands of Aussies decide to give it up for a month as part of Dry July? Other than the insane amount of support generated for cancer and the obvious health benefits (weight loss, mental clarity, increased energy), your teeth and gums will thank you too.
We have been told our whole life that sugar will give us cavities, and many types of alcohol are full of the stuff. To prevent cavities, dentists recommend you limit your intake of sugary products. But, if you are already fighting tooth decay, sugar is an absolute no-no. Alcohol acidity is just as serious. Take extra precaution if you are a wine-drinker; the acid found in wine could seriously erode, discolor and increase sensitivity in your teeth.
You know that dry mouth feeling? We’ll let you in on a secret: more alcohol is going to make it worse in the long run. Regular, heavy consumption could cause your saliva glands to swell and as a result, reduce saliva production. The resulting dryness, if left to worsen, can contribute to tooth decay as bacteria strive in the environment.
It’s gross to think about, but, if you are binge drinking, it’s likely that six-pack will make an unfashionable reappearance. When alcohol “repeats” on you, a bunch of stomach acids are sent up with it. Details aren’t necessary. You just know that hydrochloric stomach acid will be eroding your teeth the longer it’s left there.
The serious stuff
There is no sugar coating this one: second only to tobacco use, alcohol abuse is a leading contributor to oral cancer. If you consume more than 21 alcoholic drinks per week, you fall into the at-risk category. This is by far, alcohol’s most threatening effect on oral health and general well-being.
Try these tips for perfect pegs:
- Drink through a straw! This will limit the amount of contact the alcohol’s sugars and acids has with your teeth, leaving less chance for cavities to crop up.
- While you might need a rhyme to remember ‘Which should come first – wine or beer?’ You can safely drink water anytime. Adding water into the mix will reduce acidity and dehydration while fighting off erosion and sensitivity. Bonus if it helps with tomorrow’s hangover too!
- Chew some gum. Pick a sugar-free option and chew away to increase saliva production, fight dryness and prevent erosion.
- Even if you are coming home late, try to do your oral health one more favour and brush your teeth before your head hits that pillow. Just be sure it’s 20 minutes after your last drink to allow the enamel, softened by the sugar and acid, time to harden so you can brush your teeth without causing damage. Plus, everyone knows how terrible that furry-teeth feeling feels, looks and smells. Wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy? Don’t do it to yourself.
In all seriousness, Dry July is a meaningful reminder of the connection between alcohol and cancer. In many ways, you can take your risk of developing oral cancer into your own hands, so don’t wait another minute.