Does Drinking Alcohol Hurt Your Gums?


A common question from patients is what effect does alcohol play on your gums, teeth and overall mouth tissues. There are some misconceptions as patients point to the antiseptic uses that alcohol plays. Studies have shown that alcohol does not sufficiently kill the decay-causing bacteria that impact your teeth and gums and can cause a reduction in saliva production, increasing your development of gum disease. Our staff at Westlake Oral and Plastic Surgery can examine your oral tissue and discuss alcohol consumption and the role it plays on your teeth and gums during your appointment.

Alcohol and the Bacteria in Our Mouth


Many people are aware of the medicinal effects that alcohol has, but studies are not supporting the preconceived ideas that we have about it. Alcohol is a disinfectant, but in order to get the disinfectant properties, a person would need to drink a level of proof that would cause considerable damage to other areas of your body, they would also need to hold it in their mouth for at least 20 minutes, it is not accomplished from a quick swig of drinking alcohol.

Casually drinking alcohol is not a disinfectant, but it does reduce bacteria, just not the bacteria we want to reduce. We are constantly being exposed to bacteria, both good bacteria and bad bacteria. Good bacteria would include lactobacillales, which is commonly used in probiotic supplements. Bad bacteria would include bacteroidales, actinomyces, and neisseria species. Alcohol consumption changes the bacterial makeup of the mouth. It kills too much of the good bacteria and not enough of the bad bacteria; in fact, studies show that heavy drinkers even contain more bad bacteria levels than non-drinkers.


Alcohol and Saliva Production


Our natural defense against bacteria in our mouth is saliva. Saliva is created to wash away debris and bacteria from our mouth. The consumption of alcohol decreases saliva production leading to dryness in the mouth and higher incidence of developing gum disease.

By reducing the natural saliva production, patients will have a negative effect on the health of their gums. Gum tissue will gain a much higher risk of developing gum disease, or periodontal disease, and patient’s who already suffer from it can aggravate the problem. Studies have shown that people who are heavy drinkers tend to have higher plaque levels on their teeth, due to the dryness of their mouth, and are three times as likely to experience permanent tooth loss. Any dentist will tell you that it is best only to drink water, but if the consumption of alcohol is important to you, please drink only in moderation.

Caring for Your Teeth


Patients who consume alcohol can significantly help their teeth by:

•  Supplementing with Water: When you sit down to an alcoholic drink, also have a glass of water. Drink water alongside your drink, this will help keep your mouth wet, while also filling your stomach and thereby reducing how much alcohol you drink.
•  Diligently Brush: Be a diligent brusher. Before you retire to bed, make sure you brush your teeth. Too much alcohol consumption does not eliminate your need to brush.
•  Be Diligent with Dental Cleanings: Schedule appointments for dental cleanings twice a year, be aware and cautious about the health of your teeth.


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