Study: Drinking Alcohol Affects Oral Bacteria

Out With The Good, In With The Bad?

We all know about the harmful effects of over consumption of alcohol or alcoholism on one’s general health. There’s heart disease, certain cancers, to name a few. However, drinking also impacts other sensitive biological mechanisms, which may facilitate the body’s vulnerability to disease. Such as the biological mechanics within our mouth, which in turn impacts oral health.

Study of the Effects of Alcohol

Researchers from the New York University School of Medicine in NYC have recently brought to light how alcohol affects the bacterial microbiome of the mouth. The research claims that drinking can likely promote the growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth while at the same time stunting the development of helpful, probiotic bacteria.

The study involved 1,044 adult participants, aged 55–87, recruited through the American Cancer Society (ACS) Cancer Prevention Study II and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial. Healthy at the start of enrollment, they provided samples of their oral bacteria and drinking habits information. Of the number, 270 were non-drinkers, 614 were moderate drinkers, and 160 were into heavy drinking.

The research found that with those who were alcohol drinkers developed certain harmful bacteria in the mouth, namely, those belonging to the species Bacteroidales, Actinomyces, and Neisseria. In these same people, healthy bacteria, such as those from the species Lactobacillales (which help to prevent certain diseases) could not develop properly. Drinkers had decreased abundance of Lactobacillales, and with higher alcohol use, had other bacteria, some of which are potentially disease-causing, pointing at heart disease, head and neck cancer and gastrointestinal cancer.

There is evidence of an imbalance in the oral microbial flora related to local oral diseases, like periodontitis and dental caries linking potentially to systemic diseases, including gastrointestinal cancers and cardio- vascular disease. However, more research is needed along the lines of how different types of alcoholic drinks, as wine, beer and other strong liquors, independently influence the development of oral bacteria.

Better understanding of the causes and health impacts of oral bacterial imbalance can lead to specific bacteria-targeted approaches for disease prevention. In the meanwhile, it’s better to control alcohol consumption to reverse the effects or prevent the damage of unhealthy bacteria.


Ask Dr. Jaime Lee at Smile Art Seattle

A good drink once in a while or drinking only socially may be able to keep the balance of oral microbes at its best. It’s not just good for oral health, but overall being as well, we at First Impressions like to say.