BOOZE CONTROL

As we rush headlong into the Christmas & New Year season it is timely to remind ourselves of the dangers of over-indulgence in alcohol.

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TV and billboard advertising concentrates on the dangers of drink driving at this time of year but increasingly there is awareness of the direct dangers to health of both very regular alcohol consumption and 'binge drinking'. The latter is a practice in which the UK manages at twice the global average.

The World Health Organisation, which monitors this sort of thing, reports that world-wide alcohol related deaths have reached 2.5 million per year.

Cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease, strokes, various cancers and even depression are all linked to over consumption of alcohol. But alcohol also has in impact on oral health that may not be so well known generally.

One side-effect of alcohol is to reduce saliva production. As well as being a great antiseptic which controls levels of dental plaque, saliva also aids in the remineralisation of tooth enamel. Many drinks also contain acids that erode tooth enamel so saliva is important in maintaining tooth integrity.

Wines and beers also contain high levels of sugar or, in the case of spirits, are topped up with sugary mixers. These carry the same problems associated with overconsumption of soft drinks. Bacteria in the mouth convert sugar to acid which erodes teeth and leads to increased incidence of cavities.

Research confirms these dangers as people who regularly drink alcohol have higher than average periodontal disease.

Binge drinkers also risk higher incidence of vomiting as a result and this introduces acids and enzymes from the stomach which greatly increases tooth decay.

The Royal College of Physicians used to recommend 21 units of alcohol (a pint of ale has about 2 units), for men and 14 for women per week. These have recently been revised downwards.

Most importantly they advise having at least two days off per week from alcohol completely to as to give the liver time to recover. Useful to note that this break would certainly help teeth and gums too!

As ever, moderation is key, but over the holiday period it would be unrealistic to not expect average consumption to go up. However if it becomes a habit carried over into the New Year then the longer term effects described above will apply.

So, with that caveat in mind it only remains to wish all our patients and readers Seasonal Greetings and a Peaceful New Year from all of us at 57 Portland Place!