Mina Draskovic, B.Psy., reviewed this content for accuracy on February 13th, 2024
Mouth ulcers can be a real pain. While definitive evidence is still emerging, alcohol consumption may contribute to their development.
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Oral Biology and Craniofacial Research shows that alcohol can irritate the lining of the mouth, leading to the development of these pesky sores.
Alcohol can create an acidic environment in the mouth that inflames the soft tissues of the cheeks, gums, and tongue. Heavy drinking is generally bad for your oral health, increasing the risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and oral cancer.
If you’re worried about your alcohol consumption habits, it’s time to speak to the experts. Ardu’s alcohol treatment center is here to lend a hand.
Mouth ulcers are open, painful sores that develop on the mucous membranes inside the mouth. They typically appear as red lesions or open sores on the tongue, inner cheeks, gums, lips, or roof of the mouth.
Mouth ulcers are characterized by pain or burning sensations and the associated difficulty with eating and drinking. You may also experience swelling, redness, or the appearance of an open wound.
Ulcers develop when there is a break or erosion of the mucous membranes inside the mouth. They begin as a small red bump that rapidly erodes into an open sore which takes 7–14 days to heal. In most cases, mouth ulcers are harmless and resolve on their own without complications. More persistent ones can point to more serious conditions such as autoimmune disorders, oral cancer, or infections.
Some of the common causes of mouth ulcers are:
Turns out that the same stuff that can pickle your liver can also irritate the soft tissues of your mouth. Alcohol’s acidic nature and its tendency to deplete the body’s moisture and nutrients create the perfect storm for painful ulcers to bloom on your cheeks, gums, tongue, and other surfaces.
Alcohol-fueled mouth ulcers can cause some serious pain and disruptions. The combination of pain and impact on daily functions (eating, drinking, talking, etc.) make alcohol-related mouth ulcers something you want to avoid.
Symptoms of alcohol-related mouth ulcers include:
It can be incredibly difficult to overcome addiction alone. If alcohol has taken a toll on your health, we are here for you. Ardu’s rehab center can provide the support you need to start feeling like yourself again.
Frequent and heavy alcohol consumption irritates delicate tissues and interferes with your body’s important protective mechanisms. Indian researchers discovered that alcohol “inevitably affects the oral cavity, oral mucosa and teeth,” while those dependent on alcohol “may have increased risk factor for dental caries, probing pocket depth and mucosal lesions.”
While more research is still needed, available evidence suggests that alcohol likely contributes to the development of pesky canker sores.
Here are some of the mechanisms by which alcohol may promote mouth ulcers:
The relationship between alcohol and mouth ulcers has not been thoroughly investigated. Based on what we know about the harmful effects of drinking, it is reasonable to say that alcohol likely contributes to mouth ulcer development in many different ways.
Additionally, the stress of alcohol withdrawal can wreak further havoc on the mouth by triggering painful canker sores.
Alcohol withdrawal can cause unpleasant physical and psychological symptoms. The abrupt drop in blood alcohol levels throws your nervous system into overdrive, causing anxiety, tremors, and seizures. If left untreated, your withdrawal symptoms can turn into full-fledged alcohol withdrawal syndrome, and in turn, accelerate the development of mouth ulcers.
If you’re drinking too much and notice that your health is suffering, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Booze isn’t only bad for your oral health. While happy hour cocktails or a chilled beer after work may seem harmless, alcohol is harmful to your liver, kidneys, heart, cognition, mental health, skin health, and virtually your entire body.
Contact Ardu Recovery Center and make a step in the right direction today.
Many people are tempted to have a drink while dealing with the discomfort of mouth ulcers, thinking it’ll help soothe their pain. The truth is, it won’t. Alcoholic drinks such as beer or whiskey will only throw fuel on the fire and exacerbate the ulcers in your mouth.
Remember that alcohol is acidic and inflammatory. It may cause inflammation and irritation while numbing your nerves, which only increases the risk of accidentally biting, hurting, or burning the sores with hard or hot food. Alcohol’s ability to dehydrate oral tissues and disrupt the mouth’s pH balance can contribute to the formation of painful ulcerative lesions instead of helping them.
So, no, alcohol can definitely not help mouth ulcers in any way (except by helping them get worse). From alcohol detox through all six stages of recovery, Ardu’s supportive staff provides compassionate care and encouragement.
Reach out today to discuss your recovery options.
Any type of alcohol can irritate painful mouth ulcers or canker sores and delay healing. Highly acidic drinks that dry out the mouth completely are especially troublesome when it comes to aggravating oral lesions.
Sparkling wines, carbonated beers, and mixed drinks with sodas contain acids and bubbles that directly irritate sensitive wounds in the mouth. Due to their high alcohol content, spirits such as whiskies, rums, and vodkas dehydrate oral tissues and suppress the flow of protective saliva. Red wines also strip away moisture.
Put simply, if you are battling open sores, no type of alcohol is healing.
If you think alcohol is only dehydrating your mouth, you’re dead wrong. Did you know ethanol dehydrates your skin? Alcohol disrupts the skin barrier function, inhibiting the production of natural moisturizing factors that keep skin hydrated, supple, and glowing. Over time, this leads to issues such as redness, flaking, wrinkling, dullness, and even dermatitis.
Beat the adverse effects of heavy drinking and quit while you’re ahead.
Mouth ulcers can be extremely painful and disruptive to daily life. Several home remedies using common kitchen ingredients can provide relief and expedite healing.
While these at-home remedies can help provide symptom relief for existing mouth ulcers, the best approach is prevention. Quitting alcohol is often easier said than done. If you’re drinking too much and notice that your health is suffering, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.
Anyone struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction is welcome in our alcohol addiction treatment program. We help people overcome their addictions and restore their well-being. Our dedicated team of professionals is here to guide and support you in your recovery journey, provide education on relapse prevention, and help lay the foundation for long-term sobriety.
Our Utah rehab center specializes in:
To enroll in an Ardu alcohol rehab program, contact us online or via phone (801-810-1234). We will find a recovery path that works for you during the detox process and beyond. For more information, visit our admissions process page.
The early signs of liver damage from alcohol include:
As drinking continues, severe inflammation and fatty deposits prevent the liver from functioning normally, leading to permanent scarring and cell death known as cirrhosis. According to research, this condition affects up to 10-35% of those who abuse alcohol chronically and can necessitate dangerous transplants if drinking is not curtailed in time.
The most common mouth infection caused by alcohol is oral candidiasis or oral thrush. This fungal infection with overgrowth of Candida albicans fungus often occurs in people with alcoholism due to nutrient deficiency and suppression of immune defenses needed to control fungal overgrowth.
Heavy alcohol consumption can also weaken the immune system, making it harder to fight off infections such as periodontitis, or gum disease, which is one of the most frequent long-term effects of alcohol on the mouth.
Chronic consumption of alcohol can disrupt the homeostatic balance within the oral cavity, impacting everything from teeth and gums to the development of bacteria. Research points out that this eventually leads to alcohol-related diseases such as gum disease, tooth decay, and digestive tract cancers.
First and foremost, the treatment for alcohol-related ulcers requires stopping all alcohol consumption to allow healing. The patient needs to make up for the poor nutrition with vitamin supplements, manage severe pain and inflammation with OTC topicals, and prevent infection with antimicrobial rinses. Medical experts also recommend addressing the underlying issues of alcohol dependence such as acid reflux, immune disorders, or substance abuse with prescription medications or rehab programs.
Alcohol intolerance causes adverse symptoms like facial flushing, hives, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, asthma flare-ups, rapid heart rate, and low blood pressure when drinking even small amounts. These responses indicate an inherited inability to properly metabolize byproducts of alcohol breakdown.
Alcoholics often get oral thrush because excessive drinking allows overgrowth of the yeast Candida by causing vitamin and mineral deficiencies that weaken immunity, as well as dehydration and irritation that damages the mucous membrane lining protecting the mouth. Prolonged antibiotic use and medical conditions like diabetes or HIV that weaken immunity also contribute.
The mouth may feel sore, cut up, or irritated after drinking alcohol due to the acidic, inflammatory, and dehydrating properties inherent to alcoholic beverages that damage the protective mucous membranes in the mouth. With this thin barrier perforated and weakened, normally benign irritants now have direct access to submucosal nerve endings resulting in pain.
Mouth ulcers, gum inflammation, oral dryness, and secondary infection from oral flora overgrowth further contribute to this post-drink discomfort. Plus, heavy alcohol consumption is linked to a deficiency of key B vitamins which are essential for daily oral tissue regeneration, repair, and healing.
Alcohol can contribute to the development of cheilitis or inflammation of the lips by causing nutritional deficiencies, tissue dehydration, and direct damage to lip tissue. This leads to unpleasant symptoms like dryness, cracking, scaling, burning, and redness that may come in recurrent episodes. Additionally, because alcohol acts as a vasodilator early on after drinking, this creates further inflammation and irritation of already inflamed lips trying to heal.
An observant dentist can detect signs of excess alcohol consumption in patients by taking a thorough oral hygiene history and closely examining the teeth and gums. Enamel erosion, gum inflammation, cavities, mouth ulcers, poor healing, and telltale staining and smells provide clues. Dentists may even notice manifestations like tooth grinding, abnormal wear, and gum recession that indicate functional impairment possibly linked to heavy drinking.
Patients may also display difficulties with anesthesia, low pain tolerance, or be inconsistent with follow-up visits and home care. With so many oral red flags, the signs are there if dental providers know what to look for.
Mouth ulcers vary greatly in size, number, cause, severity, and healing duration across different categories.
There are several types of mouth ulcers, including:
Chaudhuri, S., Dey, S., & Bajpai, R. C. (2016). Prevalence of oral ulcers and its association with addictions in rural population of western Uttar Pradesh and eastern Rajasthan. Journal of Oral Biology and Craniofacial Research, 6(3), 179-186. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jobcr.2016.04.003
Priyanka, K., Sudhir, K. M., Sekhara Reddy, V. C., Kumar, R. K., & Srinivasulu, G. (2017). Impact of Alcohol Dependency on Oral Health – A Cross-sectional Comparative Study. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research: JCDR, 11(6), ZC43. https://doi.org/10.7860/JCDR/2017/26380.10058
Young, S. (n.d.). How Your Drinking Habits Impact Your Teeth: Scott Young, DDS: Cosmetic, General, and Neuromuscular Dentistry. https://www.scottyoungdds.com/blog/how-your-drinking-habits-impact-your-teeth
Roerecke, M., Vafaei, A., Hasan, O. S., Chrystoja, B. R., Cruz, M., Lee, R., Neuman, M. G., & Rehm, J. (2019). Alcohol consumption and risk of liver cirrhosis: A systematic review and meta-analysis. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 114(10), 1574. https://doi.org/10.14309/ajg.0000000000000340
Riedel F, Goessler U, Hörmann K. Alcohol-related diseases of the mouth and throat. Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2003 Aug;17(4):543-55. doi: 10.1016/s1521-6918(03)00019-2. PMID: 12828954.