Does Alcohol Destroy The Good Bacteria In Your Mouth?

There are over 500 different types of bacteria living in the mouth and many of these microorganisms help to maintain wellness within the body. However, certain external factors can disrupt this balance. Over-consumption of alcohol is a notorious risk factor for multiple health issues, such
as cancer and liver and cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, recent studies have revealed that avid drinkers are more likely to have much dirtier mouths.

The study

Researchers at the New York University in America attempted to decipher the link between alcohol consumption habits and the amount of good and bad bacteria found in the mouth. With mouth bacteria possessing the ability to help ensure wellness, it’s important to examine the factors that could potentially affect them. The researchers looked at a group of 1044 healthy adults aged between 55 and 87 years old. The participants also provided information about their drinking habits and were thus categorized as non-drinkers, moderate drinkers, or heavy drinkers. They also stated their typical alcoholic beverages be it liquor, beer, or wine. Of the 1044 adults; 270 were non-drinkers, 614 drank moderately (one drink per day for women; and one or two drinks per day for men) and 160 drank heavily (more than a drink per day for women; and more than two drinks per day for men).

Aside from providing information about their drinking, eating and other lifestyle habits, the participants also provided spit samples using mouthwash. The researchers would examine the samples and combine those results with the participants’ drinking habits.

The results

The study revealed that the mouths of those who routinely consumed alcohol contained an excess amount of bad bacteria and a smaller amount of good bacteria when compared to the mouths of non-drinkers. Specifically, the drinkers had more Bacteroidales, Actinomyces and Neisseria
species of bacteria than the beneficial bacteria Lactobacillales. Bacteroidales, Actinomyces and Neisseria have each been linked to diseases such as oesophagus and pancreas cancer. Lactobacillales is often used in probiotics and has been linked to promoting oral health.

The verdict on alcohol

This is the first study (an observational one at that) linking alcohol intake with oral bacteria thus more research is needed to truly determine the effect of alcohol consumption on mouth bacteria. The study also failed to highlight the specific ways in which the different types of alcohol affect mouth bacteria.

Despite this, senior investigator Jiyoung Ahn believes that the study highlights the necessity to practice caution when it comes to heavy drinking. “We know that alcohol is a risk factor for many other diseases. This is another scientific rationale, or justification, that heavy drinking is not recommended. We should avoid heavy drinking in terms of maintaining a healthy microbiome.” Having an abundance of bad mouth bacteria can lead to gum disease and increase the risk of some cancers thus it’s important to ensure that only good bacteria thrives.

Read more about the study here.

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