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As we enter the holiday season, we must be mindful that everything we put into our mouths – and in this entry, I am referring specifically to any spirits or alcohol we imbibe perhaps to enhance the joviality of the season – can have a negative impact on our dental health.

Researchers from the New York University School of Medicine studied the effect of alcohol on the bacterial microbiome of the mouth, and their findings may prompt you to reconsider the wine list.

Consuming alcohol is not only shown to increase harmful mouth bacteria but it is likewise proven to decrease the production of healthy, probiotic bacteria. Lead researcher Jiyoung Ahn blatantly states that the evidence proves “drinking is bad for maintaining a healthy balance of microbes in the mouth and could help explain why drinking, like smoking, leads to bacterial changes already tied to cancer and chronic disease.” Over 1000 adults from the ages of 55-87 were recruited through the America Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute organizations, and their findings consistently pointed to the increased presence of harmful mouth bacteria belonging to the Bacteroidales, Actinomyces and Neisseria species of those adults classified as drinkers while the production of the healthy bacteria Lactobacillales was compromised in the same group.

The researchers linked the bacterial imbalance to diseases ranging from periodontitis, gastrointestinal cancers and cardiovascular disease. These initial findings have prompted the research group to now focus on how different classifications of alcohol – beer, wine or liquor – have different specific impacts.

We will have to stay tuned, and in the meanwhile, perhaps the zero-proof trend in cocktails that have been noted by the hospitality industry in top-tier restaurants across the globe as of late may spill over into your holiday glass this season. Cheers!

—Dr. T