Effects of Alcohol Abuse on Your Oral Health

A young woman dealing with alcohol abuse

Did you know that alcohol abuse is the second biggest risk factor for oral cancer?

While many of us are now aware of the detrimental effects of excessive alcohol consumption on our overall health, its impact on oral health often goes overlooked. In this comprehensive blog, we'll explore the relationship between alcohol abuse and oral health problems, shedding light on its harmful effects and the steps you can take to avoid them.

How Does Alcohol Affect Your Mouth?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are almost 2 billion people in the world who consume alcohol daily which contributes to approximately 3 million deaths annually. Excessive alcohol consumption is related to more than 200 acute and chronic medical conditions. Some of these include suicide, homicide, liver cirrhosis, hemorrhagic strokes, and oral cancer. Amidst all these serious risks that alcoholism poses, a few of the most noticeable effects it has on our mouths are mentioned below.

Reduced Saliva Production

Alcohol is a diuretic. It causes the body to urinate more often resulting in dehydration. When the body is dehydrated our salivary glands don’t produce sufficient saliva which then leads to a condition known as dry mouth or Xerostomia. You might be surprised to know that the saliva in our mouth serves as a natural defense mechanism against tooth decay. It helps by washing away food particles, neutralizing acids, and fighting bacteria. The effects of alcohol abuse don’t just stop at dry mouth; the lack of saliva acts as a catalyst to a myriad of other oral issues, including:

Tooth Decay: With decreased saliva flow, the pH levels in the mouth become imbalanced making it a breeding ground for bacteria. This leads to the formation of plaque which ultimately causes tooth decay.

Gum Disease: Drinking too much alcohol and dry mouth have also been linked to gum disease. Gingivitis, characterized by inflamed gums, and periodontitis, a severe gum infection accompanied by bone loss, are both exacerbated by reduced saliva production.

Oral Cancer

Cancer in a dictionary
Definition of cancer in a dictionary

Several studies have shown the link between excessive alcohol consumption and oral cancer in Europe, the USA, and Australasia. Approximately 75% of all oral cancers arise in association with both alcohol and tobacco use. Oral cancer develops in various tissues in and around the oral cavity. Alcohol irritates the cells in the mouth and weakens the body's immunity against cancerous changes. If you experience persistent mouth ulcers, patches, or discoloration lasting beyond two weeks, it could be a potential warning sign of oral cancer.

Erosion of Tooth Enamel

Alcoholic beverages are often high in acidity and sugar content, which can erode the protective layer of the tooth over time. This erosion of tooth enamel not only leads to tooth sensitivity and discoloration but also increases the risk of cavities leading to dental decay.

Increased Risk of Injuries

Intoxication resulting from drinking heavily can impair our cognitive processes such as perception and judgment, increasing the chances of accidental dental trauma or facial injuries. Such injuries can impact the teeth and surrounding oral structures, necessitating dental intervention to restore oral health.


Traditionally it has been believed that only dark-colored alcoholic beverages such as red wine or sangria leave surface stains and cause teeth discoloration. Whereas, recent studies suggest that alcohol of any kind, whether white or red causes the deterioration of the tooth enamel which allows the chromogens present in the drink to get attached to the teeth; this can eventually cause staining.

Reducing Your Risk

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, moderate levels of alcohol consumption are one drink per day for women and up to a maximum of 2 drinks a day for men where the one-drink equivalent is 14 grams (0.6 fl oz.) of pure alcohol. If you can’t completely stop drinking alcohol, taking the recommended steps to mitigate the damage is extremely important.

Maintain impeccable oral hygiene

Whether you consume alcohol or not, maintaining a good oral hygiene routine is paramount. Brushing twice a day and flossing daily helps remove plaque and food debris, preventing the onset of dental problems.

Drinking Water

Remember to take a sip or two of water when drinking alcohol or after that. Alternating alcoholic drinks with water not only helps keep the body hydrated but also promotes saliva production which counters the dry mouth and its relative effects.

Eat a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet offers numerous benefits. When incorporating plenty of fruits and vegetables into your daily diet aim for a variety of colors and types to ensure you're getting a wide range of nutrients and reduce the intake of processed foods, sugary snacks, and red meat, which have been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

Regular Dental Checkups

Paying a regular visit to your dentist is important to detect and address any early signs of dental issues. In general, it’s advised to have a thorough dental examination every six months however, if you suffer from excessive alcohol abuse, book an appointment with your dentist immediately.

The Bottom line

To conclude, we all need to acknowledge the risks related to alcohol consumption. From tooth decay to oral cancer, the damage is real. There is a reason alcohol is considered harmful for pregnant women, teenagers, and the elderly. Awareness is the first step but not the last. Governments also need to partake in awareness campaigns and introduce policies such as better alcohol product labeling to help people understand the risks.

To learn more about how to treat the dental issues caused by alcohol abuse, call (888) 861-1884


What are the symptoms of oral cancer?

The most common symptoms include sores on your lip or inside your mouth that bleed easily and don’t heal within two weeks, difficulty chewing or swallowing, and weight loss.

How to treat stained teeth?

Tooth discoloration is one of the most noticeable outcomes of alcohol abuse. It is advised to go for professional teeth whitening services to restore the appearance of the teeth. Furthermore, use at-home teeth whitening kits to maintain the results for a longer duration.

Is oral cancer treatable if detected early?

Yes, oral cancer is more treatable when detected early. Regular dental checkups can help identify any abnormalities or suspicious lesions in the mouth, allowing for prompt treatment and better outcomes.

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