Alcohol abuse is an all-too-common problem in the United States. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, one in four children grows up in a home where someone drinks too much. Most people are familiar with the dangers associated with drinking and driving and can appreciate that being under the influence puts them at risk for being involved in slip and fall accidents, but did you know that alcohol abuse can have an effect on your oral health?
Your dentist will tell you that the amount of alcohol you drink has a bearing on your risk of developing certain types of cancer, as well as your risk of tooth decay and other oral health-related problems.
Dental Problems Caused by Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse can cause the following problems:
• Cavities (due to high sugar content in some alcoholic drinks)
• Erosion of the tooth surface
• Tooth decay
• Cancer of the mouth, larynx, pharynx, and esophagus
The results of a study on a group of clients at an inpatient substance abuse treatment center published in the Journal of the American Dental Association found that 85% of participants had “moderate-to-severe gingival inflammation, and more than two-thirds had a heavy accumulation of dental plaque.” Over three-quarters of participants had cavities, and 15% had missing teeth. This rate was higher than the general population, according to the researchers.
Treatment for Alcohol Addiction to Improve Overall Health
Someone who is struggling with alcohol addiction is dealing with a chronic disease which can lead to serious health consequences if left untreated. An addict is unable to stop drinking on his or her own; the person needs help. The longer the addiction is allowed to continue unchecked, the greater the damage is likely to be. Rather than waiting for an alcoholic to hit his or her “rock bottom,” a family can investigate 90 day rehab programs to find one that can provide detox and counseling services.
This is a serious matter, and there is no advantage to waiting. If you are concerned about a loved one’s drinking and aren’t sure how to bring up the subject, you may want to try to get him or her in to see a dentist for a check-up. It might be a way to start a conversation about the effects of alcohol abuse and oral health. Having the dentist and his or her staff talk about the consequences of drinking on teeth and gums may have more of an impact than a family member trying to broach the subject, and it may make a conversation about getting treatment for alcohol addiction easier.