We all know the dangers of drinking too much alcohol, whether we choose to heed the warnings or not. Apart from the potential for car accidents or other injuries, alcohol abuse can lead to cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and breast. It can cause heart disease, leading to heart attack or stroke. It increases the risk of a variety of liver diseases, including cirrhosis, and can make people more likely to develop dementia. It’s even been linked with depression. Here’s a potential complication that you’ve probably never think of, however – disease-causing bacteria in the mouth.

According to the National Institutes of Health, 500 to 700 bacteria can live in the human mouth, with 250 to 300 being present in an individual at any given time.  Not all of those bacteria are bad. Some of them actually keep other bacteria under control, like the germs that feed on food particles that get left behind in your mouth and emit a foul odor. Other bacteria aid in digestion, and some promote saliva production, which washes away food particles and germs. Bad bacteria, on the other hand, can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, plaque buildup, and bad breath.

According to an article published in Microbiome, heavy drinkers tend to have more bad bacteria in their mouths and less good bacteria. Researchers studied samples from over a thousand adults and found that those who were heavier drinkers had more Actinomyces, Leptotrichia, Cardiobacterium, and Neisseria types of bad bacteria in their mouths. Actinomyces lives in dental plaque and can cause abscesses.  Cardiobacterium can sometimes cause endocarditis, an infection of the heart valves. Neisseria can increase the risk of cancer by synthesizing acetaldehyde, a carcinogen, from the ethanol present in alcoholic drinks. At the same time, heavy drinkers have less of a good bacteria called Lactobacillus, which is often used in probiotics. It can be found in yogurt and other dairy products.

What causes this imbalance in bacteria? Researchers believe it might have something to do with alcohol causing dry mouth. Moisture in the mouth helps the good bacteria thrive, and by removing saliva, you’re creating an environment where the bad bacteria can take over. Even the alcohol present in some mouthwashes can be detrimental to the good bacteria in your mouth.

It’s not just tooth decay that you need to be concerned about. Experts say that an imbalance of oral bacteria can also be connected to gastrointestinal cancer and cardiovascular disease. Bleeding gums, which can be a consequence of bad bacteria, can lead to a host of issues by allowing toxins to reach the bloodstream. Bleeding gums have been associated with heart attacks, strokes, erectile dysfunction, and even premature low birth weight in babies.

If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.



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