Alcoholism and Oral Health

Article excerpt

Abstract -

The purpose of this study was to determine the most frequent oral changes in individuals treated from alcohol dependence, their intensity and frequency compared to the control group, and the quality of oral hygiene and dental care in subjects and control group. The study was conducted on a sample of 30 subjects treated at the Department of Psychiatry of the University Hospital Sestre milosrdnice in Zagreb, Croatia, and 30 subjects from the control group who did not have harmful habits. Subjects belonged to the age group between 25 and 70 years. We collected data on the character of the disease, the duration of their drinking and type of beverages, information on their smoking habits (whether they smoked or not and how many cigarettes they smoked), the existence of organic disturbances and their types. A dentist examined every subject. The presence and degree of xerostomia, burning mouth syndrome, gingivitis, and oral hygiene were tested by adequate tests. In the group of alcoholics, 80% of the subjects were at the same time chronic smokers, of whom 20.8% had stomatitis nicotinica. In case of subjects with harmful habits, 70% showed an unsatisfactory hygiene, while that percentage was significantly lower in the control group (34%). The frequency of xerostomia was higher in the group with harmful habits, as well as the presence of more severe cases. Burning mouth syndrome was also more present in the group with harmful habits, while it was rare or mild in the control group. The frequency of other oral symptoms' occurrence, e.g. pale lips, cheilitis angularis, leukoplakia of tongue, atrophy of filiform papillae, glossitis exfoliativa areata non migrans, teeth impressions on tongue, and visible capillaries on tongue, is significantly higher in comparison with the group with harmful habits. A higher frequency of oral illnesses in alcoholics can be explained by poor oral hygiene and decreased saliva secretion, which additionally increases the risk of caries occurrence.

Keywords: alcoholism; smoking; oral mucosa; teeth; oral hygiene

INTRODUCTION

Alcohol (ethanol) is occasionally taken by most of people due to its relaxing and euphoric effect. However, if a person loses the possibility to willingly control the use of alcohol, the problem of dependence, i.e., alcoholism occurs. Basic characteristics according to which it can be recognized are the disturbance of social behavior or functioning, problems with the law, and the development of accompanying health problems. Alcoholism is considered a psychiatric disease.1 In Croatia alcoholism represents a significant health and sociological problem. Today, there are 300 000 registered alcoholics in Croatia, which represents 6% of the total number of inhabitants.2 In their daily practice, dentists are faced with these patients, so it is very important for them to recognize the characteristic signs and symptoms in the oral cavity. Patients who consume large quantities of alcohol can develop decreased salivary flow and enlarged salivary glands. Reduced flow and buffer capacity of sauva, as well as poor oral hygiene create preconditions for the development of caries and periodontal disease.5-8 Glossitis and angular cheilitis occur very often.910 There is strong epidemiologic evidence relating to greater frequency of lesions with precancerous potential and oral carcinoma in individuals consuming large quantities of alcohol.11-13 Other signs that can be easily seen are a yellowish color of the skin, eye-white and oral mucosa, "spider" angioma or palmar erythema.14

The purpose of this study was to determine oral changes which occur most frequently in individuals treated from alcohol dependence, their intensity and frequency compared to the control group, and the quality of oral hygiene and dental care in subjects and control group as well.

SUBJECTS AND METHODS

The study was conducted on a sample of 30 subjects treated at the Department of Psychiatry of the University Hospital Sestre milosrdnice in Zagreb, Croatia, and 30 subjects from the control group who did not have harmful habits. …