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The Harmful Effects of Alcohol and Tobacco

March 26, 2024.Claudia Rojas.0 Likes.0 Comments

The Harmful Effects of Alcohol and Tobacco

man drinking and smoking

Most people already know that smoking is a major health risk and excessive alcohol can cause many health problems. But you may not know the other ways they can make an impact – for example, how can drinking and smoking change your physical appearance? How do substances harm your teeth and gums? Are there ways to reduce risk?

If you want to maintain or improve your oral and overall health, it’s useful to review the harmful and potentially dangerous effects these habits may have on your smile – then you can use the knowledge as a powerful motivator to break free and embrace a healthier you!

Smoking, Drinking, and Your Physical Appearance

The unhealthy ingredients and chemicals in tobacco and alcohol products can alter your appearance in ways that you might not guess.

Exposure to smoke from tobacco can:

  • Change your collagen levels, leading to loose-looking skin under your eyes and premature wrinkles around your eyes and mouth.
  • Reduce the amount of oxygen that reaches your skin, causing it to look a gray or bluish color.
  • Increase your risk for skin conditions like age spots, acne, eczema, and psoriasis.
  • For men, smoking is associated with increased hair loss and risk for alopecia.

Consuming too much alcohol can also increase damages to your skin and appearance. Drinking alcohol can:

  • Cause the blood vessels in your face to dilate, making you look red and flushed.
  • Lead to dehydration, which can cause dry skin, sunken eyes, dry lips, and thinning hair.
  • Interrupt your sleep cycle, causing paler skin and bags or dark circles under the eyes.
  • Long-term, severe alcohol use can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, a very serious health condition that can also cause jaundice (a yellowing of the skin) and itchiness.

Alcohol and Tobacco Pose Oral Health Threats

The harmful effects of excessive alcohol and/or tobacco use go more than skin-deep. They also greatly increase your risk for oral health problems such as:

  • Stained teeth
  • Gum disease
  • Cavities and tooth decay
  • Cancers of the mouth, throat, neck, and head

Ways to Reduce Your Risk

Quitting smoking and cutting back on alcohol intake will significantly improve not just your oral health but your overall health and well-being. The health of your teeth and mouth is linked to your total body health.

For the minor oral health risks from drinking, like erosion of tooth enamel and gum irritation, you can reduce your risk by drinking in moderation, washing alcohol down with water, and by avoiding drinks with lots of sugar or carbonation.

But to truly reduce risk, you must follow the health experts’ guidelines for consuming tobacco and alcohol:

  • There is no safe level when it comes to the use of tobacco products. If you currently using tobacco products, health experts recommend you quit.
  • The Center for Disease Control (CDC) also recommends abstaining from alcohol. But if you do drink, they provide guidelines to reduce more serious health risks:
    • One drink per day for women
    • Two drinks per day for men

A few other tips that will help protect anyone’s oral health:

  • Remember to maintain good habits such as brushing your teeth twice and flossing daily.
  • Make sure to see your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings.
  • Eat a nutritious diet that is low in added sugars and rich in vitamins and minerals.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and wash away unwanted food particles in-between meals.

You’re Not Alone, Help Is Available

It can be challenging to break unhealthy habits if you don’t know where to start. If you or someone you know needs help quitting tobacco or alcohol, you can find support using the national helpline created by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Simply call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for more information and for referrals to professionals and support programs near you.

Remember, honesty is key when talking to your dentist and/or healthcare provider. If you’re trying to hide your alcohol or tobacco use, you probably won’t fool the health experts. They can spot and diagnose early stages of potentially threatening conditions. When asked about your alcohol and/or tobacco usage, it’s best to state the facts. If truth be told, your dentist may be your strongest ally if you want to kick your harmful habits. They can offer personalized advice and recommend oral care tailored to your unique needs. Find a dentist who will support you every step of the way!

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