After being glorified on shows like Jersey Shore, binge drinking is no longer as taboo as it once was. And while MTV and social media might make drinking to the extreme look fun, we want to remind you that alcohol abuse can be extremely harmful to oral health.
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month and Alcohol Awareness Month, which is appropriate since heavy alcohol consumption is one of the major risk factors for oral cancer. It is estimated that in 2014 there will be more than 37,000 new cases of oral and/or pharyngeal cancer diagnosed in the United States, and about 7,300 people will die from this disease.
In addition, certain popular adult beverages – such as Long Island Ice Teas, piña coladas and energy drink-and-vodka concoctions – contain large amounts of sugar, which causes tooth decay, while others (like red wine) can stain teeth.
People who struggle with alcohol dependency typically neglect other healthy habits like regular exercise, proper nutrition and proper dental hygiene habits. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), binge drinking means drinking to the point that one’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels reach 0.08g/dL. For women, this usually occurs after about four drinks in two hours, and for men, after about five. By the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) definition (four or more adult beverages in one sitting), more than one in eight women binge drink and twice as many men binge drink as women.
Not surprisingly, the age group with the most binge drinkers is 18-34 adults. However, this cultural problem extends beyond college kids and twenty-somethings. According to the CDC, nearly a quarter of all adults in the U.S. (more than 38 million) binge drink about four times per month. Drinking to excess causes 80,000 deaths in the U.S. annually.
Drinking, like most other things, is best done in moderation for both your oral and overall health. For example, drinking the occasional glass of red wine (which contains heart-healthy antioxidants like resveratrol) may be beneficial for lowering LDL cholesterol and helping prevent the clogging of arteries.