Do you notice the morning after Saint Patrick’s Day or New Year’s your mouth is exceptionally dry? Your tongue sticks to the insides of your cheeks leaving you gasping for a tall glass of ice water? Well, you aren’t alone in your sticky-mouth situation. Consumption of alcohol can result in a very dry and sticky mouth and tongue. Is this alcohol-induced dry mouth anything to worry about? Or just an irritating result of having too much fun?
Around 70% of Americans drink alcohol, so most have had the experience of waking up after a night on the town feeling parched. But what is it about drinking that dries out the mouth; and maybe more importantly what kind of effect does it have on our oral health?
Why so dry?
Alcohol is a diuretic. When you drink alcohol the body processes it in a way that causes excess urination. Through a complex interplay of the alcohol molecules and hormones in the pituitary gland, even a few drinks greatly impacts how much water is pushed out of your system. If you think you can drink water in between your gin and tonics to stave off that morning dry mouth–think again. You will still urinate more water than you should if you want to stay well hydrated.
Is dry mouth really that bad?
Depends. Having a dry mouth twice a year isn’t a big deal. However, most people experience dry mouth when they are not drinking. If you take medication that causes dry mouth, adding the occasional cocktail hour on top can have detrimental effects to your oral health. Saliva is the #1 protective factor when it comes to protecting the teeth from decay. When the mouth is dry, teeth are unprotected. When there is little to no saliva, the minerals teeth require to continually stay healthy aren’t doing their job, and demineralization (minerals moving out of the teeth) occurs.
Additionally, many alcoholic beverages are acidic, which is bad news for your biofilm. If they are not inherently acidic, then they still cause the pH to drop in the mouth when consumed. Sipping a glass of wine or two over the course of a 2 hour meal will force the pH in your mouth to stay below the critical point of 5.5 for a long period of time, which makes cavity-causing bacteria very happy. The pH of beer and wine both sit around 3.2.
Do I have to give up Happy Hour to keep my mouth happy?
Not necessarily. While giving up the drink would be ideal for your oral and overall health—chances are good you will imbibe once in a while. In order to stave off dry mouth try a few of these tips:
- Drink a glass of water between alcoholic beverages
- Keep a pack of xylitol gum on hand to chew after you enjoy your drink
- Or, keep a mouth-moistening spray on hand
- Make sure to brush and rinse with elevated pH products when you get home after a fun evening out
- Drink lots of water the next day
There is no doubt having drinks with good friends is a lot of fun, but make sure to watch out for how your mouth feels the next day. If it is sticky and dry, make sure to add a few things to your routine to help protect those pearly whites!