For many adults, the greatest joys of Halloween may no longer be romping around the neighborhood in search of the house with the best candy, but instead partaking in Halloween parties. Others prefer to spice up the trick-or-treating with the kids or passing out candy routine with a tumbler full of chardonnay. You might think you’re doing your teeth some favors by avoiding the sugary treats and opting for a cold beer or glass of wine instead, but that’s one of the cruelest tricks of the season. Unfortunately, alcohol is not much of a healthier choice and could be doing some serious damage to your teeth.
It’s a misconception that beer and wine are overall “good” for your health because a handful of studies have shown that some alcohols may have a positive impact on one aspect of your health. Many even think that alcohol – particularly gin, tequila, and the family of liquors – is actually good for your teeth and that it could kill bacteria. Even more people believe that alcohol consumption and oral health are completely unrelated. All of these myths are false.
Sweet and Scary
One of the biggest threats to your oral health comes in the form of alcohol consumption. Sugar content isn’t something you only need to worry about when it comes to Halloween candy or holiday desserts, but also in your beverage of choice. Sugar consumption is just as bad for your oral health as it is your waistline, and it may lead to increased bacteria in your mouth, tooth decay, weakened enamel, and more.
Damage to Your Gums
Studies have shown that tooth decay and gum disease are both much more prevalent in people who drink frequently. In fact, the abuse of alcohol is one of the most common risk factors when it comes to oral cancer. Frequent drinkers may also have a higher rate of permanent tooth loss as well as more plaque on their teeth.
A recent study done by Brazilian researchers has highlighted just how bad alcohol is for your mouth, especially your gums. The study found that not only does alcohol consumption aggravate preexisting gum disease (also referred to as periodontal disease or periodontitis), but that it also increases one’s risk for periodontitis.
Researchers found an incremental correlation between the severity of periodontal disease and the frequency and intensity of alcohol consumption. Even for those regular drinkers who did not yet have periodontal disease, their gums were more aggravated and bled more easily than those of the non-drinkers.
Dehydration is another risk that many people do not take seriously enough, especially as it relates to your oral health. The mouth needs plenty of saliva to keep things healthy and prevent issues such as bad breath, gingivitis, and cavities. Alcohol makes this an issue because it dehydrates your body and dries out your mouth, increasing your risk for plaque buildup and gum disease.
Alcohol can also stain your teeth. Many people are familiar with the “temporary” stain that you get after drinking red wine or a dark sangria. But, most people don’t realize that alcohol can actually permanently discolor and dull your teeth. This is because alcohol compromises the tooth enamel, allowing chromogens (the ingredients in beverages that give them color) to actually attach to your tooth, eventually resulting in discoloration. Red wine is not the only culprit – all alcohol (even beer) affects the enamel in this way. You can kiss those pearly whites goodbye if you make these drinks your go-to at Halloween parties.
Minimize the Damage
The easiest way to avoid these risks to your oral health is of course to not drink any alcohol, ever. Since this is unlikely to happen for most people, particularly during festive holidays, you can still mitigate the effects by being smart. First of all, you should always sub in a glass of water after every drink that you consume. Not a sip of water, but a full glass of H2O. This helps rinse your teeth and keep you hydrated, combating two of the major oral risks of alcohol consumption. Another good idea is to chew on a piece of sugar-free game towards the end of the night until you can brush your teeth. Also, avoid drinking the ice in your mixed drink! Doing so will increase your chance of chipping your tooth or damaging the enamel.
Don’t let Halloween parties give your mouth a fright. Whether you’re headed for a costume party or making the most of walking the neighborhood with your kids, keep in mind these facts and tips when consuming your alcoholic treat this season and you’ll be in good shape.