There is a wide variety of evidence that points to the dangers associated with drinking alcohol. While a drink now and then is considered to be safe, drinking alcohol regularly is known to negatively impact many aspects of your health. It is known that drinking alcohol increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, ulcers, and even dementia.
Now, a new research study has shown that alcohol may be changing the microbiome of your mouth, increasing the ‘bad bacteria’ present in the mouth, which can lead to several different types of diseases and increase the risk of other conditions as well. So what exactly is the relationship between alcohol and mouth bacteria? Let’s find out.
How Does Alcohol Affect Your Mouth Bacteria?
New research has now exposed another side effect of drinking alcohol. Experts now believe that alcohol promotes diseases in the body by altering oral bacteria. We already knew that alcohol acts upon various receptors that are present in the central nervous system that helps the body regulate blood pressure. This can produce an imbalance in the body that can cause hypertension. However, according to a new study conducted by Jiyoung Ahn and others at the New York University School of Medicine in New York City, alcohol also impacts other sensitive biological mechanisms in the body that increases the body’s susceptibility to diseases. Their study was focused on the impact of alcohol on the bacterial microbiome of the mouth. The results of the study have been published in the journal Microbiome and indicates that even one drink every night is likely to increase the growth of ‘bad’ or harmful bacteria in your mouth. At the same time, a nightly drink also starts stunting the growth of helpful and probiotic bacteria in the mouth. The study proved how drinking is bad not just for your heart, but also disturbs the balance of microbes in the mouth. This is likely to be the cause of why drinking, just like smoking, causes bacterial changes that have been associated with chronic diseases and cancer.
Drinking Alcohol Boosts Bad Bacteria and Reduces the Helpful Ones
There are billions of bacteria present in our mouth. These range from being both beneficial to harmful ones that cause gum disease, tooth decay, bad breath and plaque buildup. The good bacteria in the mouth work round the clock by producing beneficial proteins that maintain the balance of bacteria in the mouth, preventing the harmful bacteria from overpowering the number of good bacteria.
The study was conducted on 1044 adult participants who were aged between 55-87 years. All participants were based in the United States and were selected under various clinical trials. All the participants were in good health during the study’s duration and oral bacteria samples were collected from all of them, along with information on their alcohol drinking patterns and habits. Of the participants, 270 people did not drink alcohol at all, 614 were moderate alcohol drinkers, and 160 were indulging in heavy drinking of alcohol.
After the samples of oral bacteria were analyzed and combined with the data on drinking habits, it was found that the participants who drank alcohol regularly had a consistent development of some specific types of harmful bacteria in the mouth. The bacteria belonged to the species Bacteroidales, Neisseria and Actinomyces. The results also found that species of healthy bacteria, such as Lactobacillales, failed to thrive properly in the oral samples of the participants who were heavy alcohol drinkers. These healthy bacteria are known to prevent many diseases.
Alcohol & Mouth Bacteria: Repercussions for your Health
There are many potential health concerns that emerge from the results of the study. This is because researchers have evidence that indicates clearly that an alcohol causes imbalance in the mouth bacteria and causes diseases such as:
- Gastrointestinal cancer.
- Cardiovascular disease.
In fact, the situation gets further complicated as if there is any bleeding which occurs after brushing or flossing, it opens up a wound that can allow this harmful mouth bacteria to enter the bloodstream and cause serious medical issues. The fact that there is a strong connection between bleeding gums and serious medical issues has been established by many studies. Problems that can happen due to this include:
- An increased risk of heart attacks.
- An increased risk of strokes.
- Erectile dysfunction.
- Premature births and low birth weight in babies.
Problems Regarding Alcohol & Mouth Bacteria: Is There a Solution?
If you want to battle the harmful effects of alcohol in your mouth bacteria, then you need to increase your intake of water. It should be proportionate to the amount of alcohol you consume. Water washes away the residual alcohol from the tongue, teeth and other oral tissue. Aside from this as well you should ensure that you keep drinking water throughout the day, particularly if you are a heavy drinker. An adult needs to drink approximately 45-50 ounces of water every day to replenish saliva production in the body. You should also avoid using alcohol-based mouthwash as this can also harm the microbiome of the mouth.
Additional research is still needed to better understand the exact effect of alcohol on increasing the bad mouth bacteria. While this study has offered new insight, the study, nevertheless, had its limitations. We need to take this study as a starting point towards ensuring better dental care.
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Petti, S. and Scully, C., 2009. Alcohol and oral health. In Food Constituents and Oral Health (pp. 350-380).
Takahashi, N., 2015. Oral microbiome metabolism: from “who are they?” to “what are they doing?”. Journal of dental research, 94(12), pp.1628-1637.
Thomas, A.M., Gleber-Netto, F.O., Fernandes, G.R., Amorim, M., Barbosa, L.F., Francisco, A.L.N., de Andrade, A.G., Setubal, J.C., Kowalski, L.P., Nunes, D.N. and Dias-Neto, E., 2014. Alcohol and tobacco consumption affects bacterial richness in oral cavity mucosa biofilms. BMC microbiology, 14(1), p.250.