Our moms always told us to do everything in moderation and there’s no doubt moms today probably still say the same. One important case of this is drinking alcohol. How much we consume on a regular basis can impact our health in enormous ways, including the fact heavy drinkers may be at a higher risk for gum disease, heart disease, and cancer.
How Much Is Too Much?
The Oral Cancer Foundation espouses that alcohol abuse is the second most common risk factor for oral cancer. So exactly how many drinks a week is considered abusing this substance? According to the Center For Disease Control (CDC), 8 or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more for men is considered heavy drinking. Anything less might be considered as moderate drinking habits.
Now that we have a baseline, let’s investigate how alcohol affects gums, our heart, and our overall health.
Common Knowledge About Alcohol Consumption
Drinking alcohol increases our blood sugar and dries out our mouth resulting in dehydration. We need saliva to help reduce plaque and remove bacteria from the surface of our teeth. Without that saliva bath, we increase our chance for developing periodontal gum disease and even tooth loss. It is wise to always drink water along with alcohol.
Alcohol can stain our teeth especially from beer and red wine, but there have been some published studies touting red wine as a way to reduce certain bad bacteria in our mouths.
New Studies About Consuming Alcohol And Oral Microbiomes
There exists a balance of good and bad bacteria in our mouth. Known as the oral microbiome, this positive balance can be disrupted depending on how much alcohol we consume.
A recent study was conducted and comprised of non-drinkers, people who were moderate drinkers, and heavy drinkers. The results showed that there was a significant difference between non drinkers and heavy drinkers regarding this balance. The beneficial bacteria decreased and the inflammatory bacteria increased in those who drank excessively.
There were not enough conclusions to determine any link with moderate drinkers.
The drinkers had a higher level of three strains of bacteria associated with cancer of the mouth, neck, pancreas, and esophagus. The drinkers also had less of the types of bacteria that protect us from germs and diseases.
The change in the mix of bacteria could also have been caused by other factors and not alcohol alone, like one’s oral health care, brushing, flossing and how often someone visits the dentist for a professional cleaning. Therefore, there were no definitive conclusions reached from this study, other than the more someone drinks, their health risks may increase due to the unhealthy mix of bacteria in the mouth, but more research is needed.
Regardless of the old information about alcohol consumption and the newer information we are just starting to learn, mom gets it right again. Moderation in all things is best.
See Dr. JD Robinette DDS today at (828) 267-0651 for more information about drinking risks and your health with gums.