The Effects of Alcohol Consumption on Oral Health

Regular consumption of alcohol has been shown to have adverse effects on one’s health. Chronic heavy drinking has been linked to several diseases, such as anemia, cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression, high blood pressure, and pancreatitis, to name just a few. And now researchers in Brazil have found that the health of a person’s gums can be compromised by alcohol, either aggravating existing symptoms of periodontal disease or increasing risk factors for developing oral disease. According to a recent article from Dentistry Today, previous research has also indicated that poor oral hygiene is common among alcohol users, thus increasing drinkers’ susceptibility for developing periodontal disease.

As part of the study, researchers examined a sample of 542 regular alcohol users, occasional drinkers, and nondrinkers, both with and without periodontitis. Key findings include:

  • For regular alcohol users with periodontitis, the severity of their condition correlated with the frequency of their drinking habit, often resulting in the need for additional periodontal treatment.
  • Drinkers without periodontitis experienced more bleeding gums with gentle manipulation than their non drinking counterparts.
  • Drinker without periodontitis had a higher presence of plaque than those who don’t drink. More plaque can trigger an inflammatory response in the gums.

“Alcohol slows the production of saliva, which helps neutralize the acids produced by plaque, and an accumulation of these acids can lead to the early stages of periodontal disease,” said Joan Otomo-Corgel, DDS, MPH, President of the American Academy of Periodontology. For those who are already suffering from periodontal disease, it’s crucial that they are informed on the effects of alcohol on their disease, so that treatment can be as effective as possible. While more research is needed, the findings from this study give valuable insight on why patients should care for their oral health, especially if they enjoy the occasional drink.

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