the Australian Dental Association
Written by the Australian Dental Association, Sep 20, 2022
Fact Checked

Alcohol is generally not considered part of a healthy lifestyle due to its short and long term negative effects on general health. It can cause prolonged effects on the brain, liver and other organs. But how does alcohol affect the health of your mouth?  

Mouth dryness and tooth decay

Drinking alcohol can make you dehydrated where your body does not have enough water. You body makes less saliva when you body is dehydrated. Saliva is very important for protecting the teeth. When you are dehydrated, your teeth will be less protected from the acidic and sugary alcoholic drinks you may continue to drink. Having a dry mouth can increase your risk of developing tooth decay

Alcoholic drinks can also include a lot of sugar. Drinking drinks filled with sugar frequently can increase your risk of tooth decay, especially if you also have a dry mouth. 

Research has shown that individuals who drink large amounts of alcohol have been found to have significantly more tooth decay.

It is important to drink water frequently whilst you are drinking alcohol and remember to brush your teeth using a fluoride toothpaste before bed.

Tooth erosion

Most alcoholic drinks have an acidic pH or are drunk after being combined with an acidic mixer, such as soft drink or fruit juice. Drinks that are acidic have low pH level and drinking them frequently can cause the teeth to dissolve and wear away, called tooth erosion. Long term alcohol drinkers are at risk of tooth erosion. The presence of tooth erosion is related to how long you have been drinking for and how frequently as well as if you frequently have reflux and vomiting.

Vomiting and acid reflux

Drinking large amounts of alcohol can cause vomiting and/or acid reflux. The stomach acids that come up into the mouth from vomiting and reflux are damaging to the teeth. If this happens too often, it can cause the teeth to wear away, called tooth erosion. After vomiting, or experiencing reflux, it is best to wait one hour before brushing your teeth. The stomach acid makes the tooth enamel soft and brushing too soon can cause more damage. You may like to rinse your mouth out with tap water or a fluoride mouthwash, or chew sugar free chewing gum while you are waiting to brush your teeth. 

Tooth staining

Drinking red wine is can cause stains on the outside surface of the teeth.

Dental trauma

People who drink large amounts of alcohol are significantly more at risk of suffering damage to their teeth.

Oral cancer

Oral cancer is six times more common in people who drink alcohol than people who do not. Long term drinking of alcohol can increase the risk of developing oral cancer. It is not the amount of alcohol that you drink at a single time but the long-term drinking of one or more alcoholic drinks per day that increases your cancer risk.

The Australian Government alcohol guidelines recommend no more than 10 standard drinks a week to reduce your risk of cancers.

More information

Learn how much alcohol is safe to drink at Australian Government Department of Health.