If you are a heavy drinker of alcoholic beverages, there may be more bad news in store for you. In addition to the increased risk of liver, heart and brain problems, excessive consumption of alcohol is now being linked to an increased risk of gum disease. Gum disease, or periodontitis, occurs when the gums become infected with bacteria. But it doesn’t end there, because the bacteria responsible for periodontitis can get into your bloodstream, causing everything from heart disease to stroke to many types of cancer, including liver cancer.
The discovery linking excess drinking to periodontitis was discovered by researchers at the New York University’s Langone Health. Researchers at NYU sought to discover which “lifestyle factors” changed the oral biome. They examined many behaviors, but noted that the more alcohol participants consumed, the more their oral biome changed. Those who identified as drinking heavily had less good bacteria and more bad bacteria present in their mouths than those who drank moderately, lightly and not at all.
To conduct the study, the NYU researchers used data from 1,044 participants in a nationwide cancer study. They found that the participants who drank more than the recommended one glass of alcohol per day for women and two per day for men had less Lactobacillales, a good bacteria often found in probiotic supplements, and more bad bacteria like Bacteroidales and Neisseria associated with periodontitis.
They also noted, however, that alcohol consumption is just one factor that could be responsible for the increase in these bad bacteria and the decrease in the good Lactobacillales. Many factors could be responsible for these changes, including oral care habits, income disparities and the participant’s overall diet.
Still, the evidence does seem pretty clear, and we already know that excessive alcohol consumption can be very dangerous. So what can you do to prevent periodontitis? For starters, if you are a woman who drinks more than the recommended one glass of alcohol per day or a man who drinks more than two glasses of alcohol per day, cutting back can save your health in many important ways. Another way to help stave off gum disease is to take excellent care of your teeth and gums. That means brushing twice a day for two minutes at a time, and flossing at least once a day. Don’t scrimp on the professional cleanings, either. Visit Dr. Lesko at least once a year for your annual cleaning and exam.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Lesko, please call 970-221-5115.