The holiday months are, for most, a time for family. Gathering at a family member’s home with your famous green bean casserole, beet salad, or pumpkin pie, fighting over who carves the turkey, and trying not to mention politics, is usually par for the course along with some sort of alcoholic beverage. Some prefer craft beer, a fine scotch, or maybe a finger of bourbon, but according to a new study, your mouth bacteria might not be so keen on the alcohol.

While defining a baseline for the number of bacteria living inside a health oral cavity is difficult, by some estimates, numbers can exceed the entire population of the human species. What exactly are these creatures doing? Well, the short answer is more than we currently understand. One thing that has been well documented, however, is the relationship between oral bacteria, cavities, and gum disease.

Alcohol Tips the Balance in Your Mouth

What’s the Relationship Between Bacteria and Cavities?

Like any bacteria ecology, be that our skin, stomach, or mouth, diversity is incredibly important. Bacteria are in a constant state of negotiating the terms of their relationship with other strains, and these negotiations work to maintain an overall balance. One bacteria may protect another in exchange for food, while other bacteria will keep the population of another strain in check. If you remember your biology, you know this is symbiosis. If a few strains can gain an advantage over others, it can create a power imbalance we call dysbiosis.

Streptococcus mutans in particular can do this when they get access to an abundance of sugar and starch. These food sources allow them to overpopulate the mouth, and damage both teeth and gums. That’s because they tend to attach to teeth, and produce an acidic byproduct which wears enamel and causes inflammation in the gums.

Oral Ecology and Drinking

A recent study published in the journal Microbiome just this year, sought to explore the effects alcoholic drinks could have on mouth bacteria. Researches from the NYU School of Medicine offered clear evidence that drinking can disrupt a healthy balance of microbes in the mouth, potentially explaining why drinking, like smoking, can lead to bacterial changes already tied to cancer and chronic disease.

Involving a thousand participants between the ages of 55 and 87, patients were tested to genetically sort and quantify oral bacteria of moderate and heavy drinkers. One of the causes of the bacterial change documented, could be the buildup of harmful byproducts from alcohol’s breakdown.

The holidays can be just as stressful as they are joyous, and while many of use are inclined to reach for a drink, it may be worth making that drink non-alcoholic, also sugar-free! If it’s been awhile since your last dental appointment, you might give yourself the present of a check up. These can help you mitigate the risk of gum disease, cavities, and even oral cancer in the future.

You should see a dentist every six months for regular cleanings. If you are due—or overdue—for a dental cleaning in Rockland County, please call (845) 627-7645 or email B & D Dental Excellence in West Nyack today.