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Tuesday 25 Nov 2014

Excess alcohol impacts on oral health

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Clinical research discovered people are three times more likely to suffer from severe gum disease if they are dependent on alcohol compared to an occasional drinker.

A study, presented in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, also discovered when combined with smoking, the chances of developing severe gum disease further increased.

‘The crucial thing to remember is with a good oral hygiene routine, dental problems can be prevented and kept at bay. Developing a good routine and sticking to it will also help to stave off a whole range of health problems, so there is no excuse for poor oral hygiene’

Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, sounded out the research as a further warning shot to those who enjoy alcohol in excess.

Dr Carter said: ‘The growing body of evidence suggests what we once thought were safe alcohol consumption levels are in fact not so, particularly if it’s compounded by smoking.

‘Even those who don’t drink or are occasional drinkers are susceptible to health problems. Almost one in five people observed in the study had severe gum disease, a problem exasperated by smoking.

‘The crucial thing to remember is with a good oral hygiene routine, dental problems can be prevented and kept at bay. Developing a good routine and sticking to it will also help to stave off a whole range of health problems, so there is no excuse for poor oral hygiene.’

The research follows the warning from doctors that there would be ‘210,000 preventable deaths due to alcohol consumption’ in England and Wales unless alcohol laws are reformed.

The projected figures, published in The Lancet, warn of a worst-case scenario and urge the government to act ahead of its alcohol strategy for both countries.

According to the report, some 70,000 of these deaths could be from chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, breast cancer and oral cancer, illnesses scientists have previously linked to poor oral health.

According to the Foundation, drinking alcohol to excess can increase the risk of mouth cancer by up to four times. Binge drinking and alcohol abuse problems in  the UK are well-documented and are reasons why the Foundation estimates 60,000 new cases of mouth cancer will be diagnosed in the next decade.

Dr Carter added: ‘People are drinking more and more these days and, with many so-called “social smokers” having a cigarette while they drink the likelihood is that the number of poor dental health and increased cases of illness will continue to rise until people are forced to take notice.

‘Encouraging people to quit these habits early could be life-saving. National Smile Month, which takes place from 20 May to 20 June this year, is a great window of opportunity for those who need motivation to quit. It may only be a month, but it might just be the kick-start they need.’

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