The Connection Between Alcohol and Dry Mouth
Often, the fun you have over the weekend gives you the energy to grind through the week. But do you regularly wake up on Monday morning, sober, with a dry mouth after drinking alcohol?
You may find yourself feeling hungover and lousy. You may experience a very dry mouth. You may even have difficultly chewing, speaking, or swallowing.
What’s to blame for this situation? You guessed it: Alcohol.
Read on to know how and why you have a dry mouth after drinking alcohol.
Effects of Alcohol on Oral Health
As we all know, you consume alcohol by drinking it. So, the effects of alcohol will be evident in your mouth, where the process of digestion begins. In fact, you can thank saliva for many of the oral functions you use every day:
- It moistens the food you eat, making it easy to swallow.
- It lubricates your tongue, allowing you to speak.
- It kills disease-causing bacteria in your mouth.
- It is a natural cleanser, flushing out food debris.
These essential functions fail to occur if you have reduced saliva or alcohol-related dry mouth, and the effects depend upon the concentration of the alcohol, the amount of alcohol consumed, the frequency of intake, and whether your intake is diluted by the consumption of other fluids, like water.
Alcohol primarily contains ethanol. Your body turns ethanol into acetaldehyde after you consume alcohol, and acetaldehyde is known to negatively affect the salivary gland.
Studies show a significant decrease in salivary secretion after alcohol intake. In addition, evidence suggests that alcohol also reduces the number of acinar cells. Acinar cells have a key role in secreting saliva.
Now, the odds of having a dry mouth are slim if you are an occasional drinker or stop after a couple of drinks. The real trouble arrives when you binge drink. Or if you prefer your drinks straight up, without any dilution.
Impact of Alcohol as a Diuretic
Have you noticed you take a lot of bathroom breaks during or after a few drinks? Why do you think this happens? Apart from reducing the secretion of saliva, alcohol also acts as a diuretic.
Diuretics are substances that make your body pass more urine than usual. As a result, the body loses a lot of water through urine, resulting in dehydration and, effectively, dry mouth.
According to scientific research, the diuretic effect of alcohol is directly associated with the strength of the alcohol in your drink. It is also dependent on the quantity of your serving.
Simply put, if the concentration of your alcohol is higher, its diuretic effect will also be increased. (A whiskey neat, for example, is far more likely to dehydrate you than a glass of wine.)
Looking deeper into the science, ADH (antidiuretic hormone) is a hormone that primarily regulates the water content in the body. Alcohol suppresses this ADH hormone, causing your kidneys to hold less water. Thus, you urinate more, get dehydrated, and experience symptoms like dry mouth.
Long-Term Impacts of Drinking on Oral Health
People are quick to consider how drinking impacts their biology, but they often don’t realize how it impacts the health of their teeth and mouth. Here are some long-term impacts one can expect from binge drinking:
- Gum diseases such as periodontal pockets and loose teeth eventually arise in people who are addicted to alcohol. This occurs due to their bad oral hygiene and inadequate dental care.
- Alcohol presents a significant risk factor for oral cancer, according to a study conducted among alcohol misusers in South London.
- Alcohol increases the permeability of the inner layer of your cheeks and mouth. Meaning, if you drink and smoke simultaneously, the alcohol makes it easy for carcinogens in smoke to permeate through your cheeks.
- Research reveals a high prevalence of cavities, also known as dental caries, among alcoholics.
- Tooth erosions can occur if you vomit or have acid reflux after drinking alcohol. Also, cocktails are often mixed with sweet syrups, soft drinks, or fruit juices to enhance the flavor. All this can make the drink more acidic, eroding your teeth and making them more sensitive.
- If your preferred drink of choice is in a dark color, then be prepared to give up your pearly white smile. Like tea and coffee, dark-colored alcohol can stain your teeth in the long run.
- Regular intake of alcohol reduces the pH in your oral cavity. When the mouth is acidic, it is easy for bacteria to grow, decay your teeth, and cause gum diseases.
When to See Your Dentist
Try your best to stay hydrated when you have a fun evening with friends.
If your post-drinking dry mouth persists, schedule an appointment with your dentist.
Your dentist may perform a salivary flow test and then decide whether you have a dry mouth. They may also recommend products to stimulate the salivary flow or to keep the mouth moist, like sugar-free gum or an alcohol-free mouthwash.
Your dentist may also recommend some preventative measures, such as:
- Sipping water between alcoholic drinks.
- Abstaining from binge drinking.
- Avoiding drinks with a heavy concentration of alcohol in them.
Most importantly, give your body a break and avoid consuming alcohol every day.
Alcohol is common in most cultures and it is understood that most people consume it from time to time, especially on vacation or during the holiday season.
If you decide to drink alcohol, then it’s important to be informed and to know where to draw the line. Adding water to your beverage can help reduce your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). It may also help reduce the effects of alcohol on your teeth and improve your general health.
Mostly, try to remember your oral hygiene after a fun evening out. Forgetting to brush your teeth can aggravate the effects of alcohol on your oral cavity. (Also, the alcohol itself tends to cause unpleasant breath.)
If possible, try to cut back on your alcohol consumption. The effects of alcohol on your body and mouth are never going to be favorable in the long run.