Are you accustomed to enjoying a glass of wine with your dinner each evening? Some red wines can be good for your heart, but do you know what effect that alcohol may be having on your smile? Like most things, alcohol can be fine in moderation, but it is definitely something that should be enjoyed responsibly, both for your body’s sake, as most people know, but also for your smile’s. Recent research indicates that consuming too much alcohol can actually be bad for your gums. And since healthy gums are essential to maintaining a beautiful smile as you age, understanding why alcohol can be harmful can help you make more informed decisions about when and how much to drink.
What The Study Says
In a study by the Journal of Periodontology, research indicated that regular consumers of alcohol were more likely to have periodontal disease than their non-drinking or only occasional-drinking counterparts. They also had significantly more plaque buildup, a key factor in the development of gum disease.
Researchers indicated that this is likely linked to alcohol’s drying effect on the mouth. “Dry mouth” can actually cause plaque buildup, because saliva is one of the natural ways your body fights it. When your body fails to produce saliva, whether due to alcohol consumption, side effects of prescription medication, dehydration, or other causes, it can allow the plaque buildup to create an acidic environment, which not only increases your risk of cavities. It also makes it much more likely that you will develop gum disease.
Early warning signs of trouble include red, irritated or inflamed gums. Bleeding during flossing is another common symptom of gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease. Chronic bad breath, or halitosis, is also a symptom.
If you notice you have dry mouth, there are over-the-counter oral rinses that can help temporarily. But you should also schedule a dental visit to check for plaque buildup, and to ensure your gums are healthy. If not, a professional cleaning can help address minor buildup. If the plaque buildup is more extreme, though, you may require more extensive periodontal therapy, such as scaling or root planing.