Alcohol, Smoking and Oral Health

Alcohol and Oral Health

The recommended limits of alcohol drinking are:
Up to 2-3 units daily for women
Up to 3-4 units daily for men
Try to have at least 3 consecutive days free from alcohol a week, for men and women, this gives you liver time to recover.

Men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week. Spread your drinking over three days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week.

The short term health risks of alcohol intake include;

  • Anxiety
  • Sexual Difficulties such as Impotence
  • Impaired judgement leading to accidents
  • Slowed breathing and heartrate
  • Loss of Consciousness
  • Potentially fatal poisoning

In the long term, alcohol can contribute to a variety of problems, including damage to an unborn child, liver disease, osteoporosis (thinning of the bones), pancreatitis, stomach ulcers, infertility, heart disease, raised blood pressure, stroke, dementia and brain damage.

It can also lead to an increased risk of a variety of cancers, particularly mouth and breast cancer and cancer of the gullet. It is also frequently associated with mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety.

Even if you don’t drink all week, you cannot ‘save up’ your units and then drink them all in one night. Drinking more than the recommended daily limit is potentially dangerous. Drinking more than twice your daily limit (six units for women and 8 units for men) on any one drinking occasion qualifies as a ‘binge’.

Try to have at least one soft drink for every two alcoholic drinks you have on a night out.

Smoking and Oral Health

How does smoking affect the health of my mouth?

Most people are aware that smoking is bad for their health in general. It can cause many different health problems and, in some cases, fatal diseases. However, what people don’t realise is the damage that smoking does to their mouth, gums and teeth.

Smoking can cause tooth staining, gum disease, tooth loss and more seriously, mouth cancer.

Why are my teeth stained?

One of the effects of smoking is staining on the teeth due to the nicotine and tar in tobacco. It can make the teeth yellow in a very short time, and heavy smokers often complain that their teeth are almost brown after years of smoking.

How will smoking affect my gums and teeth?

People who smoke are more likely to have gum disease. Smoking may change the type of bacteria in dental plaque, increasing the number of bacteria that are more harmful. It also reduces the blood flow in the gums and supporting tissues of the tooth and makes them more likely to become inflamed, however, smokers may not get the normal warning sign of gum disease, bleeding gums, due to this reduced blood flow.. Smokers’ gum disease will get worse much quicker than in people who do not smoke. Gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults.

How is smoking linked with cancer?

Most people know that smoking can cause lung and throat cancer, but many people still don’t realise that it is one of the main causes of mouth cancer too. The number of patients being diagnosed with mouth cancer is increasing dramatically every year and in thousands of patients it is fatal.

Are there special dental products I can use?

There are toothpastes designed for people who smoke. However, they are normally more abrasive than normal toothpastes and so you should use them with care.

There are several whitening toothpastes on the market. Although they do not affect the natural colour of your teeth, they can sometimes help to remove staining. Whitening toothpastes are also fairly abrasive.

Mouthwashes may help to disguise any issues in the short term, but that is all that they will do.

What can my dentist do for me?

Your dentist will carry out a thorough examination to make sure that your teeth, gums and whole mouth are healthy.

Your dentist will also examine your cheeks, tongue and throat for signs of any other conditions that may require further investigation.

Will I need any extra treatment?

Your dentist may refer you to a dental hygienist for further treatment, thorough cleaning and to keep a closer check on your oral hygiene and gum health.

Smoking and drinking alcohol are the main causal factors of oral cancer. When both products are used the risks are multiplied rather than added. People who smoke two or more packets of cigarettes and drink four or more units of alcohol a day have a 35 times increased risk of developing oral cancer compared with those who neither smoke nor drink more than two units of alcohol a day.

At Appletree Dental Surgery our Dentists and Hygienists routinely screen for Oral Cancer at your every appointment.

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