the Australian Dental Association
Written by the Australian Dental Association, Sep 13, 2023
Fact Checked

Drinking alcohol is generally not considered part of a healthy lifestyle. It can have short and long term negative effects on the health of the body, including the brain and liver. But how does alcohol affect the health of your mouth?  

Below are some of the effects that drinking alcohol can have on the mouth. 

Mouth dryness and tooth decay

Drinking alcohol can make you dehydrated where your body does not have enough water. Your body makes less saliva when it 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 also increase your risk of developing tooth decay

Alcoholic drinks can include a lot of sugar. Drinking drinks that are 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 significantly more tooth decay.

When drinking alcohol, it is important to frequently drink water to try and stay hydrated. Remember to also brush your teeth using a fluoride toothpaste before bed.

Tooth erosion

Most alcoholic drinks have an acidic pH or the alcohol is 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. This is called tooth erosion. Long term alcohol drinkers are at risk of tooth erosion. The presence of tooth erosion is often linked to how long you have been drinking for and how frequently as well as if you get reflux and vomiting when you drink alcohol.

The below picture shows how acidic different drinks are. Many of these drinks are mixed with alcohol. The lower the pH, the more acidic the drink is and the more damage it can do to your teeth if you drink it frequently.


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 teeth. If vomiting or reflux happen too often, it can cause the teeth to wear away. This is called tooth erosion. After vomiting, or experiencing reflux, it is best to wait one hour before brushing your teeth. The stomach acid makes the outside layer of the tooth soft and brushing the teeth 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 can cause stains on the outside surface of the teeth.

Dental trauma

People who drink large amounts of alcohol are at much great 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.