The Centers for Disease Control says that moderate alcohol use is defined as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Anything more than this on a regular basis is considered heavy alcohol use. If you consume alcohol in more than moderate amounts, you could be ruining your teeth.
Those who are dependent on alcohol tend to see increased levels of plaque. Here's why, what excessive plaque can do to your teeth, and what you can do about it.
Brushing Won't Get Rid of Plaque If You Drink Heavily
According to a study of 40 diagnosed alcoholics, brushing frequently had no statistical effect on their plaque levels. Plaque is a sticky substance that builds up on your teeth and particularly along the gum lines. The sticky substance contains bacteria, which, when sugars are present, causes the release of acids that break down tooth enamel. This can lead to cavities.
Excessive Plaque Can Form Tartar
Excessive plaque that is not removed can turn into tartar, which is a hard substance that is extremely difficult to remove. In fact, hardened tartar cannot be removed by brushing and flossing. Having your teeth professionally cleaned is the only way to have tartar removed. The reason you want to have your teeth professionally cleaned is because excessive plaque and tartar can lead to gum disease.
Gum Disease Can Cause You to Lose Your Teeth
Gum disease comes in three stages. The earliest stage is gingivitis, which is the inflammation of gums resulting from excessive plaque at the gum line. The second stage is periodontitis, which is when the inflammation has irreversibly damaged the supporting fibers and bones that hold your teeth in place. In this second stage, pockets form below the gum line, which allows plaque to form in those newly exposed tooth surfaces. The last stage is advance periodontitis, which occurs when the damage is severe enough to cause your teeth to loosen or shift. At some point, without restorative treatment, your teeth can fall out as there is no longer any supporting structures holding the teeth in place.
Professional Dentistry May Save Your Teeth
If you recognize that your teeth and gums are in poor health, there are dental treatments available to you. Here are two common treatments:
- scaling and root planing. The plaque and tartar is removed by a procedure called scaling and root planing, a deep cleaning process that will allow the gums tissue to heal so the pockets are able to shrink.
- bite guards. Loose teeth can be stabilized with bite guards, which will allow the regeneration of tissue during the healing process in the earlier stages of gum disease.
The most important part of treatment for gum disease is to develop better habits. For those who have dental problems due to excessive alcohol consumption, developing better habits may be the most difficult part of the process.
Some Alcoholic Beverages Contain More Sugar
It's important to note that beer contains sugars, which may be why excessive plaque build up is common in alcoholics. When you drink beer, the sugars in the beer become food for the bacteria that resides in the plaque. While you should refrain from drinking too much alcohol for your overall health, it is difficult to stop drinking entirely when your body is dependent on alcohol.
If you cannot stop drinking beer excessively, consider switching to an alcoholic beverage that is low in sugars, such as wine. If you would like to stop drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and feel you are unable to do so, you may need other aids, such as medication to reduce your alcohol dependence and therapy.
Contact a dental clinic like Justice Dental to learn more about treatments for gum disease.