Academic journal article Alcoholism and Psychiatry Research

Alcoholism and Oral Health

Academic journal article Alcoholism and Psychiatry Research

Alcoholism and Oral Health

Article excerpt


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.


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 all the subjects performing adequate oral tests.

The presence and degree of xerostomia were examined by vitro adhesion test. The test is carried out so that the dental mirror is pressed to the dorsum of the tongue and then suddenly lifted. It is considered positive if the mirror sticks to the dorsum, i.e. if there is resistance while lifting it. The resistance intensity is the measure of xerostomia and it is expressed by degrees from 0 to 3. The presence of burning mouth syndrome was also examined and expressed by degrees from 0 to 3.

Gingivitis was tested by clinical examination and its intensity is also expressed by degrees from 0 to 3. Data were analyzed by descriptive statistical method.


In the group of alcoholics, 80 % of subjects were at the same time chronic smokers, of whom 20.8% had stomatitis nicotinica. All the subjects from the control group are non-smokers, but they consume alcohol in socially acceptable quantities or they do not drink it at all.

Oral cavity's hygiene is expressed in two degrees: satisfying and unsatisfying. In case of subjects with harmful habits, 70% showed an unsatisfactory hygiene while that percentage was significantly lower in control group (34%). The term unsatisfying hygiene implies the presence of larger quantities of dentogingival plaque which causes caries and gingival inflammation. (Figure 1)

In the group of subjects with harmful habits, 64% did not have cured teeth in comparison to the control group where the percentage was 40%. (Figure 2) The percentage of non-cured teeth is in correlation with the development of plaque in the oral cavity. …

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