After years of studies and multiple campaigns in schools, on television, through the radio, etc., our society is well aware of the many dangers that alcohol and tobacco have on our health. It is widely known that alcohol is linked to liver disease and failure and that tobacco use often causes lung cancer, but are you aware of the hazards of alcohol and tobacco on your teeth?

The Effects of Tobacco

Tobacco use is the most common risk factor for oral cancer. Whether you smoke or chew tobacco, you are at great risk for oral cancer, receding gums, tooth decay, and gum disease. When you smoke tobacco, the blood flow to your gums is reduced and many of your cells are damaged because of the raised temperature from the smoke. Smoking cigarettes also causes stained teeth and tongue, bad breath, and will dull your sense of taste and smell.

Smokeless tobacco allows all of the dangerous chemicals in tobacco to come in direct contact with your gums and teeth and since it is held in the mouth, the contact is prolonged. People who use smokeless tobacco are up to fifty times more likely to have oral cancer.

The Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol abuse is the second most common risk factor for oral cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers more than eight drinks a week for women and fifteen or more for men to be excessive alcohol use. People who drink alcohol excessively often have high levels of plaque on their teeth and are more likely to lose permanent teeth.

Even moderate alcohol drinking can lead to oral issues like teeth stains and dry mouth. There are acids in alcohol that weaken the tooth enamel and allow the colors in the beverage, especially darker drinks like red wine and darker beers, to stain the teeth easily. Alcoholic drinks, especially liquors, dry out the mouth, which prevents the saliva from removing plaque and bacteria from the surface of teeth.

The Effects on Braces

Smoking cigarettes, using smokeless tobacco, and excessive alcohol use can all negatively impact your orthodontic treatment. Tobacco use can cause gum disease and constrict the blood vessels in gums, bones, and periodontal ligaments. All of these issues can slow down, or even prevent, the tooth movement that you and your orthodontist are striving for.

Not only can using tobacco and alcohol lengthen your orthodontic care, it will also leave stains on your teeth. The brackets on your teeth will prevent the area underneath them to be stained, but the rest of the surface will experience discoloration due to the tobacco and/or alcohol use. You don’t want to end up with stained, unhealthy teeth after all of the time and money you spent on your braces, so keep your mouth healthy and stay away from tobacco and alcohol.