They Call It ‘Fire Water’

Alcohol and Oral InflammationTry this: Pour a shot glass of whiskey. Gin, vodka, tequila or other spirits will do, too. Don’t add anything else. No ice, lime juice, or olives are needed. Now take a big swig.

Notice anything? How about that fiery feeling in your mouth? If you dare to swallow it, that burning sensation will travel all the way down your gullet.

What does this little experiment suggest about the effects of alcohol on your body? If the reaction of the mucous membranes in your mouth and throat are any indication, you might conclude that alcohol is bad, especially for your delicate oral tissues.

An insult to teeth and gums

An alcoholic drink or two are hard on your oral tissues. When sugar or citrus products are added in as mixers—such as in a margarita—the insult to teeth and gums is multiplied.

Heavy drinking is another story. Studies have shown that heavy drinkers are much more likely to have severe oral health problems such as gum disease and decayed teeth. Many heavy users have poor dental hygiene. For patients requiring dental procedures, alcohol use can reduce the ability to heal and even complicate anesthetic administration. Further, more than one-third of alcohol abusers have potentially precancerous oral lesions.

Think about it. Besides its use in alcoholic beverages, ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, is a major component in medical wipes and antibacterial hand sanitizer. Ethanol kills many bacteria and fungi by denaturing their proteins and dissolving their lipids; that is, by destroying some of their cellular structures.

Antioxidants help

Scientists at Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry (BCD) in Dallas, Texas have shown that ethyl alcohol has a negative impact on oral cells. Their studies have confirmed that ethanol keeps wounds—such as a scratch on oral cells—from healing because it increases reactive oxygen species (ROS, or free radicals). Ethanol also inhibits cells from migrating across a wound to heal it.

The research also looked at whether antioxidants might counteract the effects of ethanol. The researchers exposed two types of oral cells—those that become gingival tissue, and cells that form ligaments holding teeth in place—with different concentrations of ethanol. They observed the cells’ viability and the ability to synthesize DNA. Not surprisingly, the higher the concentration of ethanol, the worse the results. Then, the researchers applied antioxidants, including phloretin and ferulic acid, to the oral cells exposed to the ethanol. They found that the antioxidants decreased the production of ROS free radicals and increased cell viability in the cells exposed to ethanol.

Other research involving ethanol has also demonstrated the benefits of antioxidants on oral tissues. Studies in Italy have shown that red wine has antioxidants, which seem to prevent the bacteria that cause tooth decay from clinging to saliva and teeth. Also, researchers in New York and Canada found that polyphenols from grapes and red wine may neutralize the damage caused by free radicals, and help limit inflammation caused by gum infections.

Our mission at PerioSciences is to produce topical antioxidant oral care products. Our antioxidants, phloretin and ferulic acid have been shown to counteract the effects of free radicals, such as those caused by alcohol, in the oral cavity. AO ProVantage dental gel and AO Pro Rinse are an excellent addition to your oral hygiene regimen of daily brushing and flossing, plus regular dental visits.

To help keep the chemistry of your mouth in balance, consider using antioxidant-rich products like those offered by PerioSciences. Phloretin and ferulic acid, two of our active ingredients, can help improve the antioxidant balance of your mouth. To learn more about antioxidants in oral care, fill out the form on our blog. Also, be sure to connect with PerioSciences on Facebook and Twitter.

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