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Is your alcohol consumption affecting your oral health?

  • A new study has revealed that just one alcoholic drink a day changes the balance of bacteria in the mouth, which can lead to a range of diseases. This blog considers this study and how best to protect yourself from damage to your oral health.

    By Yasmine Qasim

The public have long been aware that the consumption of alcohol can have negative effects on the human body. However, new research has now revealed that those who consume alcohol daily have a higher level of “bad bacteria” in their mouths.

The research in question examined the effects of alcohol on oral health, by testing saliva from more that 1,000 adults. It was concluded that those who have one or more alcoholic drinks per day saw a reduction of healthy bacteria in the mouth, with a significant increase of harmful bacteria also detected.

What is “healthy bacteria”?

A healthy mouth will contain Lactobacillales, which is a bacterium that is beneficial to oral health by reducing the risk of tooth decay. A healthy mouth will also contain pathogens that can help reduce gum inflammation.

Alcohol consumption causes a reduced level of Lactobacillales and also suppresses the growth of pathogens, therefore having a detrimental impact upon the health of a mouth.

What effect can this have?

The reduction of healthy bacteria in the mouth alongside the introduction of “bad bacteria” can have wide-reaching consequences, including gum disease, tooth decay, head and neck cancer and digestive tract cancers.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, has commented:

“There are hundreds of different types of bacteria in the mouth and they all play a highly significant role in a person’s wellbeing. These bacteria are finely balanced and important for maintaining everything from the immune system and how the body deals with pollution in the environment, to protecting the teeth and gums and aiding with digestion after eating and drinking.”

Interestingly, the study found that the type of alcohol consumed also affects the type of bacteria found in the mouth.

The researchers found that wine drinkers produce more bacteria responsible for gum disease when compared to non-drinkers. Comparatively, beer drinkers produce an increase in bacteria responsible for tooth decay, when compared to non-drinkers.

This is not the first study that has pointed towards the dangers associated with drinking alcohol to excess, rather it is one of the latest in a long line. However, it does highlight an additional cause for concern associated with the consumption of alcohol.

You should always therefore remain aware of the effects that alcohol consumption can have on oral health – or your health in general for that matter. This is particularly pertinent if you are drinking over a long period of time, or if you regularly drink to excess.

In order to best protect yourself, you should drink moderately (in both volume and frequency); ensure that teeth are brushed after drinking alcohol; and speak to your dentist if you have any concerns.

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