Because April is alcohol awareness month, we want to take some time to discuss some of the devastating effects alcohol can have not only your overall health but also your oral health. Did you know that alcohol abuse (more than 21 drinks during the week) is the second largest risk factor for developing oral cancer? And when you combine its effects with tobacco use the risk of developing oral cancer increases exponentially. Here’s what you should know.
How Alcohol Affects Your Mouth
When you drink alcohol, it dehydrates your mouth. This can contribute to “dry mouth,” which is an oral condition that causes issues such as tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. When you combine smoking with drinking alcohol, the drying effect also allows the carcinogens in tobacco to permeate the tissues in your mouth, which contributes to the formation of oral cancer.
Heavy drinking also causes nutritional deficiencies that weaken the immune system and lowers the body’s ability to utilize antioxidants to prevent cancer cells from forming.
What You Should Know About Oral Cancer
While it is a form of cancer that doesn’t usually draw much focus, oral cancer is actually responsible for one death every hour in America, 24 hours per day. Sadly, these numbers haven’t really improved over the years mostly due to the fact that oral cancer is often not detected until it has reached more advanced stages, leaving a poor prognosis for the patient.
Visiting your dentist in Charleston every six months for cleanings and checkups is truly your best defense against oral cancer. You are also your own best advocate; closely monitor your oral health and report any changes in your mouth to your dentist right away such as white or red patches, or wounds that don’t heal within a couple of weeks.
If you have further questions about alcohol or oral cancer, we encourage you to contact your team at James Island Dental Associates.