How Damaging Is Alcohol Consumption On Teeth and Oral Health?

A lot of people consume alcohol, but is it harmful to our oral health? Indeed, regular alcohol consumption can lead to enamel erosion and increase the risk of tooth decay.

You may have observed that when discussing certain issues, such as gum disease, alcohol is often brought up alongside smoking, highlighting the detrimental effects of alcohol on oral health.

While the majority of us would agree that smoking is harmful, which is now well-proven, we may feel more hesitant about alcohol. Although not everyone drinks, many of us do and may not believe that the small amount we consume can cause considerable harm, particularly to our teeth and gums, due to enamel wear and the potential for tooth decay.

Inevitably, the occasional drink will be less damaging than drinking significantly every day, though even moderate alcohol consumption can contribute to enamel wear. Even if you are a moderate drinker, it is important to understand how alcohol may affect your dental health, including the heightened risk of tooth decay and enamel damage.

Alcohol and Tooth Decay

Alcohol consumption is one of the habits that can greatly affect your teeth and oral health. While moderate drinking, such as enjoying a glass of red wine with a meal, may not cause immediate harm, heavy drinking poses several health risks and is undoubtedly damaging to your teeth. Alcoholic drinks, especially those with high alcohol and sugar content, can cause teeth staining or worse, tooth decay by contributing to the production of plaque. Bacteria in your mouth feed on the sugar in alcoholic drinks, producing acids that attack tooth enamel and lead to decay. Frequent and heavy drinkers also have a higher risk of developing oral cancer. Drinking alcohol in moderation and with caution is essential to maintain healthy teeth and gums.

Halitosis – Bad Breath

The probability of halitosis (bad breath) is linked to the higher level of bacteria, a situation often worsened by alcohol drying out the mouth and reducing saliva flow. While the smell of alcohol on the breath is unpleasant, the smell of halitosis, often exacerbated by dry mouth from alcohol abuse, is completely unbearable. The gases emitted by these bacteria, along with the odour of rotting soft tissue, can be extremely unpleasant.

Gum disease

Regular alcohol drinking is likely to have adverse effects on your gum health. Many of us are aware that alcohol promotes dehydration and frequently leaves us with a dry mouth in the morning. You might also feel like you have sticky “goo” in your mouth when you wake up like this. This is a collection of bacteria, and while these bacteria are always present in our mouths, they reproduce faster when our mouths are dry. If this occurs frequently, the increasing amount of potentially hazardous types can quickly lead to gum disease and elevate the risk of tooth decay.

Healing time can take too long

We encourage our clients not to drink alcohol for a few days after any dental surgery, especially if major intervention is required. This is because alcohol use can both slow down the healing process and potentially increase the risk of infection, underlining the importance of moderating alcohol consumption. This is due to the alcohol narrowing the microscopic blood vessels in the gum, decreasing the delivery of blood to the area.

Oral cancers

Although it is not quite as harmful as smoking, drinking alcohol is a significant risk factor for oral cancer. This could change your life or even put your life in danger, particularly if excessive alcohol consumption leads to chronic dental health issues.

Our recommendation

If you must consume alcohol, our guidance is certainly worth considering, especially due to the effects of alcohol on oral health.

  • Drink in moderation, if at all. Replace alcoholic beverages with nonalcoholic beverages.
  • Make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water before going to bed, to counteract the drying effects of alcohol on saliva production.
  • Don’t go to bed without brushing your teeth, no matter how much you’ve drank, to minimize the risk of tooth decay. This would almost certainly increase the amount of damage done while you sleep.
  • Even if you brush your teeth well at home, please see a hygienist every six months or so to have your teeth and gums professionally cleaned, particularly to address stains and potential tooth decay from alcohol use.

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