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Dry January: do it for your health – BSDHT

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  Posted by: The Probe      17th January 2019

As the sun rises on January 1stand people blearily open their eyes to the likely hangover, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you never want to drink again – but what if you make this a reality? At least, for the month of January. Going alcohol free has a number of positive effects on both general and oral health, which can be enjoyed by patients and practice staff alike.

What is Dry January?

Dry January is a widely known health initiative created by Alcohol Concern to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking too and to help people reconsider their relationship with alcohol. The campaign involves participants giving up alcohol for the whole duration of January, and the charity even has an app and other resources that can be used to help people maintain their resolve for the whole month.

The problem with drinking

A glass of wine whilst sitting on the sofa after work may not seem like the foundation of a drinking problem, but experts warn that it is exactly habits like this that can fast turn into something more. An article released by the NHS that explored one woman’s wine drinking behaviour explained how her daily “wine o’clock” eventually became a habit rather than a pleasure, showing how easy it is for people to step over the line between enjoyment and addiction without even realising it.[i]

Alcohol dependency is seeing an all time high, and some sources claim that one in seven UK individuals has become reliant on the substance to some degree.[ii]Furthermore, recent figures state that there were over 1 million hospital admissions related to alcohol in the UK in 2016/17 and 7,327 alcohol related deaths in the same time period.[iii]This is estimated to cost the NHS £3.5 billion each year,[iv]and just goes to show the damage that alcohol can cause.

Benefits of binning the booze

The health benefits of giving up alcohol cannot be overstated. Not only are non-drinkers at much smaller risk of conditions such as liver disease,[v]but giving up alcohol has also been found to help people lose weight.[vi]Many alcoholic drinks are full of empty calories and high in sugar, and these can quickly build up to become unwanted weight gain. Cutting out these extra calories is likely to help people shift a few pounds.

Furthermore, giving up alcohol may help to improve sleep. A lack of sleep has been proven to have multiple health implications, including putting people at risk of serious conditions such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes.[vii]When we drink spirits we tend to mix them with drinks that are high in caffeine such as energy drinks or cola, and this can prevent us from falling asleep in the first place. Furthermore, alcohol itself affects the quality of our sleep, and though a nightcap may help us drift off into the land of nod it can actually mean we get less restful sleep as our bodies spend more time in the REM stage rather than deep sleep.[viii]By cutting alcohol out of your routine you will quickly find that you can return to normal sleeping patterns, for more beneficial rest.

There’s also the financial side to consider, and it’s surprising how much money you can save by simply ordering a non-alcoholic drink instead. We all know how fast those cocktails can add up, so why not use January as an opportunity to save the money? It will probably come in useful following the Christmas spending.

Effects on oral health

It’s not just our general health that drink affects, and studies have revealed that our favourite tipples are also causing changes in our oral cavities. Of course, sugary drinks such as vodka and coke are bad news for teeth due to their acidic nature, but research conducted in 2018 also proved that heaving drinking can negatively alter the balance of microbes in our mouths and promote higher levels of bad bacteria.[ix]These bacteria are likely to increase the risk of decay and gum disease, meaning cutting alcohol will inevitably encourage better oral health.

Support your staff and patients

So, what can your team do to help promote Dry January and raise awareness? The options are almost limitless. Perhaps a group of your team can all download the app together and make it a competition to see who can make it to the end of the month? Or maybe you can help raise patient awareness by putting up posters and giving out fliers and speaking to them about the benefits of giving up alcohol during appointments?

Whatever you decide to do, Dry January is a great opportunity to breed good habits amongst your colleagues and your patients.

For more information about the BSDHT, please visit www.bsdht.uk,

call 01788 575050 or email enquiries@bsdht.org.uk

REFERENCES

[i]NHS. Going Dry For A Month Boosted My Health. Link: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-support/dry-january-joannas-story/ [Last accessed November 18].

[ii]Dentistry.co.uk. Record Numbers of People are ‘Alcohol Dependent’. Link: https://www.dentistry.co.uk/2018/09/13/record-numbers-people-alcohol-dependent/ [Last accessed November 18].

[iii]Drinkaware. Consequences: adult Drinking in the UK. Link: https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/research/data/consequences/ [Last accessed November 18].

[iv]Alcohol Concern. Alcohol Statistics. Link: https://www.alcoholconcern.org.uk/alcohol-statistics[Last accessed November 18].

[v]NHS. Alcohol-related Liver Disease. Link: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alcohol-related-liver-disease-arld/ [Last accessed November 18].

[vi]Alcohol Concern. Why Do Dry January? Link: https://www.alcoholconcern.org.uk/dry-january-individuals[Last accessed November 18].

[vii]NHS. Sleep and Tiredness. Link: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/why-lack-of-sleep-is-bad-for-your-health/ [Last accessed November 18].

[viii]  Drinkaware. Alcohol and Sleep. Link: https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/effects-on-the-body/alcohol-and-sleep/ [Last accessed November 18].

[ix]Dentistry.co.uk. Drinking Alcohol Could Negatively Affect Your OrAL Health. Link: https://www.dentistry.co.uk/2018/04/26/drinking-alcohol-negatively-affect-oral-health/ [Last accessed November 18].


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