binge drinker with periodontal problems

Gum Disease: An Unexpected Consequence of Binge Drinking


Sober Recovery Expert Author

binge drinker with periodontal problems

It's no secret that binge drinking can lead to a multitude of issues emotionally, psychologically and physically. However, there may also be repercussions to a health issue that is often overlooked—gum disease.

An Overview of Binge Drinking

According to the Centers for Disease Control, binge drinking is the most common, costly, and deadly pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that occurs when men consume five or more drinks or women consume four or more drinks in about two hours.

Binge drinking can lead to a multitude of issues, including a health issue that is often overlooked—gum disease.

There are harsh results from even one incidence of binge drinking. Consuming too much alcohol can lead to memory issues, motor vehicle accidents, falls, burns, drowning, high blood pressure, heart attack, and, of course, death. Alcohol also interferes with the gag reflex, which increases the risk of choking vomit, if the drinker passes out from too much drinking.

Binge Drinking and Gum Disease

Binge drinking has been linked to dental problems, especially gum disease and receding gums, referred to as a periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease affects one of every two Americans and is an infection of the structures around the teeth that may damages gums and can destroy the jawbone. Symptoms include red and swollen gums, as well as gum bleeding and pain.

Receding Gums and Alcohol Use

According to a study recently published in the Journal of Periodontology, people who are dependent on alcohol have worse receding gums than those who are not.

Once you develop receding gums, you suffer a number of negative consequences, including:

  • Tooth sensitivity

  • Exposed tooth root

  • Increased risk of decay

Unfortunately, if receding gums are left untreated, they will often continue to worsen and the risk of tooth loss increases.

Additional Research

There is plenty of other research that bridges the relationship between alcohol abuse and poor oral hygiene. A national survey also confirms that having ten or more drinks per week results in higher periodontitis risk. One study found there was a clear relationship that men who drank regularly were at an 18 to 27 percent increased risk of periodontal disease. Binge drinkers had clinical attachment levels (the depth of pockets created when gums pull away from the teeth) of four millimeters or greater (three millimeters or more leads to moderate-to-severe periodontal disease).

People who have alcohol use disorder also tend to have higher plaque levels on their teeth since alcohol causes dehydration of the mouth, so bacteria are not washed away by saliva, and plaque formation occurs. Finally, binge drinkers are three times as likely to experience permanent tooth loss.

Treating Periodontal Disease

Despite the lasting problems of periodontal disease, it is possible to treat most of these conditions. Treatment may involve in-depth procedures such as scaling, root planning, removing soft tissue from the gums or even dental surgery.

To reduce the risk of developing periodontal disease it is essential to stop the abuse of alcohol. Binge drinkers should be conscious of practicing good oral hygiene on a daily basis, including brushing the gums and getting regular dental check-ups at least twice a year.

If you require dental support but cannot afford care, dental schools can be a good source of quality, reduced-cost dental treatment. The US Department of Health and Human Services provides information on federally-funded community health centers across the country that provides free or reduced-cost dental care.

But the best action you can take is to end the binge drinking and excessive alcohol use that’s leading to gum disease in the first place.

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-891-8171 to speak to a treatment specialist.

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