Giving up alcohol for January has become popular over the last few years, with many of us embracing the opportunity to seize a positive start for 2023, setting a new year’s resolution to consume fewer units of alcohol - or even cut the hard stuff out entirely. The mental and physical health benefits of drinking less are quite well known at this point, and those who manage to get through Dry January may be moving into February with a smaller waistline and a larger wallet.
However, there’s a lesser-known benefit to passing on that glass of wine. Drinking alcohol carries some serious oral health risks, including tooth decay, oral cancer and accidental dental trauma. Professor Michael Escudier, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery says:
“Drinking too much alcohol has been linked to an array of oral health problems including oral cancer, tooth decay and tooth erosion. It also increases the chances of accidental trauma or facial injury because of the higher risk of falling or being involved in an accident when people are intoxicated.”
There are some aspects of his statement that can feel a little scary - but the increased risk of oral cancer is worth paying attention to. It’s been estimated that people who drink and smoke heavily will have thirty-eight times the risk of developing oral cancer compared to those who abstain from both. Tooth decay and gum disease are both linked to alcohol consumption, with alcoholics reporting a higher number of teeth requiring extraction or restoration.
Drinking too much is known to increase your risk of developing liver disease, and among the numerous issues this can cause for your body, there’s a knock-on effect relating to dental treatment - those who have liver disease will only have access to low doses of commonly prescribed drugs and antibiotics, which can reduce the success of dental treatment, and potentially prolong your recovery time.
Sir Ian Gilmore, the Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, highlights the issue:
“Alcohol is linked to more than 200 health conditions, including oral health problems such as tooth decay and oral cancer. The Chief Medical Officers’ low-risk drinking guidelines recommend that we should not drink more than 14 units a week to keep the risks low.”
“The Faculty of Dental Surgery would like to see people pledging to cut back on the amount of alcohol they drink throughout the year and not just during Dry January. I think people are starting to become more aware of just how damaging alcohol can be to their general health, but we want them to know how it impacts their oral health as well.”
If you think you may be drinking too much, and you’d like to make a change, Dry January is the perfect time to give it a go - with so many of us taking on the challenge of being sober throughout January, you can start your year with the support of friends and family, in addition to the free digital resources available to help you through the month.