Keep your teeth happy this festive season

November 23rd, 2015

With the festive party season almost upon us you might planning your outfit, drawing straws to determine who will be your designated driver, or choosing between Christmas pudding or mince pies for your work do. But Christmas is not a good time for teeth, especially if you’re planning on celebrating with a few glasses of your favourite tipple.

We’ve all been there: stumbling through the door in the early hours and plunging straight into bed for the deepest of sleeps (after raiding the fridge off course!). When you wake in the morning, with a sore head and hazy memories of some particularly spectacular shapes you’ve thrown on the dancefloor, one thing becomes quickly apparent: you forgot to brush your teeth last night.

A one-off won’t do any harm will it? Many of us forget our nightly teeth cleaning much more frequently over the Christmas period, and this can spell trouble for our oral health. Nights of heavy alcohol consumption can have numerous negative effects on dental health. Alcohol contains a lot of sugar. Much more than the glass of squash or cuppa that you might ordinarily consume of an evening. If you’ve not brushed your teeth, the sugar breaks down in your mouth creating an acidic breeding ground: bacteria and plaque reproduce at an alarming rate, increasing your chances of tooth decay dramatically.

This risk is further increased by the fact that alcohol causes dehydration. When the body becomes dehydrated, the amount of saliva the mouth produces dramatically decreases giving us quite a dry feeling mouth. As well as being a bit unpleasant or uncomfortable, this lack of saliva also means that there is less anti-bacterial agent in the mouth. In short, the sugar in the alcohol means there is a greater chance of bacteria and plaque forming, and the lack of saliva means there is less anti-bacterial agent to fight it. Not sounding good is it?

Before you think about cancelling your Christmas fun, there are a few simple steps you can take to reduce the risks. Although any alcoholic drink contains a high level of sugar, you can reduce your exposure to sugar by avoiding mixers with a high sugar content. So steer clear of energy drinks or cola type mixers with spirits, or opt for a low calorie option where possible. You can also use a straw to consume your drink. This helps by limiting the amount of time that the drink is in contact with your teeth, therefore offering more protection against decay or erosion.

Ideally when you get home, you shouldn’t brush your teeth right away. Allow about an hour after your last drink to give the enamel on your teeth time to re-mineralise (brushing too soon can mean you brush away any loosened particles). Once this time has passed, brush and floss as normal.

If forgetting to brush is where you fall down, try leaving your toothbrush somewhere obvious, perhaps on your bedside cabinet, so that you have a visual reminder when you get in to brush your teeth.

Brushing your teeth might be the last thing you feel like doing after an evening out, but it is really important to maintain your oral hygiene routines as best as possible in order that you protect yourself from tooth decay and gum disease. By taking a few simple precautions, you can reduce the risk to your teeth, and make it far easier to remember to head for the tooth paste when you get in.

For more information on tooth-brushing behaviour following the consumption of alcohol, visit the British Dental Health Foundation website.

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