Alcohol

How does alcohol affect your teeth and gums?

When we think about how much alcohol we drink, we often just think about the effect it has on our body. Did you know that alcohol can affect our oral health too? Use this page to find out more about the links between alcohol and your oral health.

Mouth cancer

Drinking alcohol to excess can increase mouth cancer risks by four times. If you both smoke and drink to excess, you are up to 30 times more likely to develop the disease. Sticking to the daily unit guidelines is advisable, and it’s even better if you can give your body some alcohol-free days each week. Current guidelines advise that men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day, and women should not regularly drink more than 2-3 units a day.

If alcohol increases the risk of mouth cancer, why do some mouth rinses contain alcohol?

Many brands of mouth rinse contain a small percentage of alcohol to help with the antibacterial and cleansing action, and to enhance the flavour and strength. At present, there are no definitive links between mouth rinses containing alcohol and mouth cancer. However, if you prefer, there are many brands on the market that don’t contain any alcohol, which many people find to be milder alternative. Always speak to your dental team to find the right dental products for you.

alcohol

Giving up alcohol

Could improve your oral health.

Tooth decay and acid erosion

Many types of alcohol are acidic and sugary, especially when they’re mixed with fizzy drinks or fruit juices. Frequent consumption can cause tooth decay and acid erosion.

Alcohol is also dehydrating and reduces saliva flow. Saliva helps to neutralise acids in the mouth, so when you don’t produce enough, you’re at a higher risk of tooth decay. To help combat this, drink a glass of water between alcoholic drinks and stay hydrated. Sugar-free chewing gum is also handy, particularly if it contains xylitol, a natural sweetener that inhibits bacterial growth.

One further note (although not particularly nice!), if drinking alcohol causes you to vomit, immediately rinse your mouth out with water and wait 30 minutes before brushing your teeth. Stomach acid is extremely acidic.

Staining

Although teeth are very tough, they’re also porous and can easily become stained over time by red wine, coffee, tea, tobacco, and other dark-coloured foods and drinks. A whitening toothpaste can help to keep minor staining under control, and regular visits to your hygienist can help to remove stubborn surface stains.

Top tips to limit alcohol damage to your teeth and gums

  • Watch your alcohol intake and make sure you’re not exceeding the daily unit guidelines
  • Have a glass of water with every alcoholic drink to stay hydrated and keep saliva flow regular
  • Chew sugar-free gum, especially if it contains xylitol
  • Don’t be tempted to graze on sugary foods all day to cure a hangover
  • Wait at least 30 minutes after drinking and eating before brushing your teeth. If drinking alcohol causes you to vomit, immediately rinse your mouth out with water and wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth 
  • If possible, drink acidic alcoholic drinks through a straw