Dry January and the Effect of Alcohol on Teeth
The new year is here which means we will all jump at the opportunity to improve ourselves and our health through New Years Resolutions.
A 2015 study indicated that as many as two-thirds of Britons (64%) created a resolution for themselves, with the most common being to lose weight, quit smoking or give up alcohol.
The latter is so popular that it’s actually been turned into a public health campaign fondly known as Dry January.
What is Dry January?
Dry January is a public health campaign that encourages people to abstain from alcohol. It was introduced by Alcohol Change UK as a means to solve the alcohol problem that has been affecting the UK for decades.
In 2017, millions of people participated in the Dry January campaign, which illustrated its success in encouraging individuals to remain sober.
Many people did it for the health benefits, as alcohol is known to have a negative impact on our well-being.
However, many people don’t consider the effect alcohol can have on their teeth. Its acidity, staining effects, and other influences can alter the appearance and durability of teeth over time.
If you’re considering participating in Dry January but not fully convinced of the health benefits, perhaps understanding the impact of alcohol on your pearly whites will be enough to put you on the wagon.
Alcohol contains acid, and some alcohols contain more than others. It is found in beers, spirits and wine, which is especially acidic. The most common acids found in wine are citric acid, tartaric acid and malic acid.
The reality is acid is awful for teeth, and when left on the teeth for extended periods of time, it causes erosion. It eats away at the enamel (the hard outer layer of teeth), resulting in permanent and irreversible damage.
Acids respond to bacteria in the mouth by creating lactic acid, which further destructs the tooth enamel. When this coating dissolves, your teeth become more susceptible to decay and you may notice a change in colour and experience sensitivity.
Acidic elements cling to the teeth, and if you don't practice good oral hygiene every day, your teeth are vulnerable to damage.
One of the most common causes of tooth decay is the continuous intake of sugars. The bacteria in our mouths thrive on sugar. As they are introduced into our mouth, a chemical process occurs as these two interact to form acids that attack teeth and its enamel.
Various forms of alcohol contain sugar. The sweeter the wine or alcohol tastes, the more sugar it contains.
Prosecco is one of the worst. Sipping the famous bubbles constantly means a double whammy of sugar and acid which can wreak havoc on your teeth as they are constantly attacked.
This can lead to demineralisation of the enamel, which is the loss of calcium and other minerals from the tooth.
Healthy enamel should be white and shiny but too much fizz will dissolve the teeth leaving them dull, chalking and at risk of crumbling away.
Hence, consuming little to no alcohol during Dry January can have a positive impact on your oral health.
Alcoholic drinks that boast deep, dark shades are generally the culprits staining teeth. These include beers, red wine, coffee liqueurs and other concentrated beverages. They cause discolouration and staining that can have long-lasting effects.
Abstaining from drinking alcohol, as well as establishing an oral hygiene routine, can improve the colour of your teeth and ensure that they remain unstained and in good condition.
If you are worried about staining you may benefit from a professional clean or ‘AirFlow’ (a powerful but gentle combination of water, air and fine powder used as a stain removal treatment), which can leave teeth looking whiter as any deposits and staining will be removed.
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it encourages increased urination. When you pass more fluids, your body becomes dehydrated, and this results in a decreased production of saliva, a condition called dry mouth.
The lack of saliva in the mouth limits its ability to wash away any bacteria that are clinging to the teeth which can increase your risk of dental decay and gum disease.
How To Care For Your Teeth in 2019
To minimise enamel erosion and decay, London Hygienist recommends the following:
Use a straw (avoid plastic ones) for drinks and rinse your mouth with water after drinking. Or, better yet, use Regenerate Foaming Mouthwash. It acts on early erosion caused by daily acid attacks to restore enamel mineral content and micro-hardness. I like its handy travel size bottle because you can use it on the go and it has as many rinses as a normal bottle.
Keep acids and sugars to meal times only and aim for no more than three to four sugary/acidic attacks per day.
Sugar-free gum and mints increase salivary flow, which can neutralise plaque acids, help remove food debris, strengthen teeth and reduce dry mouth.
Opt for products with Xylitol as an ingredient, which can help fight tooth decay. I like PepperSmith.
Use a toothpaste designed to fight acid erosion twice a day. I recommend Regenerate toothpaste.
Ready to focus on your oral hygiene for 2019? Book an appointment with me today at one of my two London locations.