Alcoholic beverages have and continue to play a big role in various cultures and civilizations. Archaeological evidence suggests that intentional fermentation of drinks has been practiced as early as the Neolithic period. Hebrew and Christian Bibles, the Qur’an, Greek and Roman literature, and art history document the role of drinking in people’s lives. And, drinking alcohol is frequently apart of social activities and has associations with festive, transitional, and traditional rituals.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 86.4 percent of individuals 18 and older have drunk alcohol. NSDUH also reported that 15.1 million adults had alcohol use disorder.
AUD is a chronic brain disease involving compulsive alcohol use, uncontrollable alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not drinking.
Aside from AUD, alcohol consumption, especially when excessive, becomes a risk factor for many ailments and conditions. These folks may be at risk for cardiovascular disease, liver cirrhosis, memory loss, stomach ulcers, impotence, early aging, and more. It can also give rise to violent and irrational behavior in some individuals.
Alcohol and Oral Health
A dry mouth reduces adequate saliva which aids in sweeping away food particles from the mouth and decreases plaque buildup. A lack of saliva increases the likelihood of bad breath. Additionally, it allows the growth and production of volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) like hydrogen sulfide and methyl mercaptan.
In a study in the Journal of Periodontology, alcoholic beverages were found to aggravate existing cases of periodontal disease and raise the risk of acquiring it. The research assessed 542 regular alcohol users, occasional drinkers, and nondrinkers both with and without periodontitis.
Based on the findings, the conclusion was that there is a correlation between the severity of a regular alcohol user’s existing periodontitis and the frequency of alcohol consumption.
Heightened emotional reactions because of lowered inhibitions when drinking can result in teeth grinding and clenching. Grinding or clenching your teeth, especially when frequent and severe, can cause jaw disorders. These acts can also damage teeth, deteriorate the enamel, expose the dentin, trigger tooth sensitivity, and cause headaches.
Also, excessive consumption of alcohol often leads to a hangover involving gastrointestinal distress or vomiting. Vomiting can lead to dental erosion or the loss or wear of the dental hard tissues due to the acid vomit presents.
Alcohol consumption also contributes to the prevalence of oral cancer. Studies show that about 70 percent of people with oral cancer are heavy drinkers. The nutritional deficiencies related to heavy drinking lower the natural ability of the body to use antioxidants which help prevent cancer formation.
Other studies claim that cirrhosis of the liver due to alcohol intake increases the risk for oral cancer. Although, further investigation for this claim is necessary.
The “Right” Amount
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans by the US Departments of Health and Human Services and of Agriculture suggest one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
One drink is equivalent to 14 grams or 0.6 fluid ounce of pure alcohol. This amount of alcohol is present in:
- 12 ounces of beer with five percent alcohol content
- 8 ounces of malt liquor with seven percent alcohol content
- 5 ounces of wine with 12 percent alcohol content
- 1.5 ounces of an 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, or vodka)
The Dietary Guidelines suggest the following individuals to refrain from consuming any at all:
- Those younger than 21
- Pregnant women
- People who are driving or intending to drive
- People who are participating in activities that require skills, coordination, and alertness
- Those taking prescriptions that can interact with alcohol
- Individuals suffering from certain medical conditions
- People who are in recovery from alcoholism or have the tendency to drink beyond control