People who consume alcohol excessively and regularly are at great risk to develop tooth decay and periodontal disease. Even having a few drinks regularly can begin to break down the enamel on teeth.
Alcohol and Tooth Decay
The process goes like this: the sugar in alcohol combines with the bacteria in your mouth to form plaque. Plaque that builds up eventually softens the enamel and a cavity, or a hole, will develop.
Once that hole appears, the plaque and bacteria reaches the dentin, the softer part of the tooth underneath the enamel. Tooth decay speeds up without the enamel present as a protector.
As the decaying process continues (and more alcohol is continually added to the mix), plaque and bacteria encounter the soft center of the tooth known as the pulp. The pulp houses nerves and blood vessels that when exposed, lead to great pain and dental abscess.
The Science of Your Mouth
A recent article in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research indicates that the maintenance of soft and hard teeth tissue is largely determined by the chemical make-up of salivary glands that can which can serve as a protector against periodontitis.
However, since heavy and abusive alcohol consumers tend to have poor diets, the salivary glands are also affected and interact poorly with the mouth’s bacteria.
Oral Health Falls Low on the “To Do” List
Alcoholics entering recovery are usually consumed with their immediate recovery needs…and rightfully so. With detox and withdrawal symptoms to endure, oral hygiene tends to become a secondary priority for everyone, regardless of where they are on the disease spectrum.
Those who are homeless need to address housing and employment needs immediately after entering recovery. Those who have jobs, but no insurance, often need direction and resources for dealing with the oral issues caused by alcoholism. Even those who have jobs and good insurance must still face long-term dental plans to obtain both oral health and the bright smiles they desire.
Back to the Basics
A Washington D.C.-based insurance agent named Lisa serves as a perfect example of alcohol-related dental problems. After spending a few months in recovery, Lisa says her dentist discovered 14 cavities and severe periodontal disease. She spent the next two years going back and forth to the dentist.
“As I started taking care of my teeth – flossing and brushing – I realized I was learning again how to take care of myself emotionally as well,” says Lisa.
Learn more about the effects of alcohol abuse.
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