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Is alcohol bad for teeth?

Mina Draskovic, B.Psy., reviewed this content for accuracy on February 04, 2024

From yellowed enamel to weakened roots, alcohol can wreak havoc on your pearly whites. Excessive alcohol consumption is bad for your oral health, leading to an increased risk of dental caries and tooth loss.

A 2017 study by the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research revealed that alcohol-dependent individuals have a significantly higher occurrence of dental caries and are more likely to lose teeth compared to non-drinkers.

Experts at Penn Dental Medicine say that heavy drinkers are three times as likely to experience permanent tooth loss. Alcohol creates an acidic environment in the mouth that erodes tooth enamel and irritates gums, enabling decay and infection to set in more rapidly.

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If you’re finding yourself unable to kick the habit despite the negative health effects of excessive drinking, we can lend a helping hand. Our compassionate team at Ardu’s rehab center is here to help guide you through recovery one step at a time.

This place truly changed my life…. don’t know where I would be if I didn’t find Ardu… if you or anyone you know is struggling I strongly suggest this place. Located in a beautiful area of Utah, with even better people that will take the time to understand you and give you the care you need. 

Brock Estes


Why do alcoholics have bad teeth?

Alcohol can take an immense toll on your teeth if you consume it regularly and excessively. Alcoholics often experience accelerated dental problems due to the combination of alcohol’s direct physical effects and indirect lifestyle impacts. 

The previously mentioned 2017 study indicates that alcohol dependents may have an increased risk of dental caries, probing pocket depth, and mucosal lesions. Put simply, alcoholics tend to have more cavities, deeper infected pockets around teeth, and sores in the mouth tissue.

Apart from the damaging effects of alcohol, people who drink heavily also tend to neglect their personal hygiene. Personal self-care routines—such as proper teeth brushing and flossing, that prevent plaque and tartar buildup—are neglected. 

Those struggling with addiction may prioritize obtaining and consuming alcohol over brushing teeth or scheduling dental visits. Not to mention that alcohol’s effect on mental health and cognition can reduce a person’s motivation to uphold other basic aspects of health and well-being.

Alcoholics also tend to consume food that’s low in nutrition. Alcohol packs nothing but empty calories, which means there’s nothing nutritional in those wine glasses or whiskey shots.

You can tell if someone is struggling with alcohol addiction, especially when the physical signs start to show through. 

What are the oral manifestations of alcoholism?

While the internal damage of alcoholism may not always be visible, the exterior physical signs often betray alcohol addiction. Perhaps the most telling signs of alcohol use disorder (AUD) are those found in the mouth—erosions of tooth enamel, receding gum lines, and discoloration that no amount of brushing can reverse. 

Let’s look closely inside the mouth of an alcoholic to reveal some common oral manifestations of alcoholism.

  1. Gum recession and bleeding gums
  2. Persistent bad breath
  3. Dry mouth and reduced saliva
  4. Darkened or discolored teeth
  5. Eroded tooth enamel
  6. Exposed tooth roots
  7. Increased tooth sensitivity
  8. Loose or shifting teeth
  9. Extreme tooth decay and cavities
  10. Loss of teeth
  11. Abscesses and oral infections 
  12. Sores, lesions, or growths in the mouth
  13. Dental and jaw pain
  14. Difficulty eating or swallowing

The combination of these issues stemming from long-term excessive alcohol use results in deteriorated oral health, accelerated dental disease, and tooth loss over time. The good news is, the damage caused by alcohol may be halted and even reversed if you abstain and start taking care of yourself.

It’s easier said than done, but you can count on our alcohol addiction treatment center to help. Our caring and supportive staff can support you through the six stages of recovery, from alcohol detox to embracing and maintaining the joy of sobriety.

Is alcohol bad for teeth and gums?

While occasional, intermittent drinking may allow the mouth to recover its healthy balance, heavy, habitual intake suppresses the flow of protective saliva, enabling tooth decay and other oral complications. A 2018 study found that, among other things, those struggling with alcoholism often neglect dental care, accelerating tooth and gum deteriorations that require complex treatments.

Patients with chronic alcoholism have significantly more wear. This tends to be mostly erosive in nature, especially affecting the palatal surfaces of upper anterior teeth. It is worse in those with a continuous, rather than episodic, drinking pattern.

A 2019 article revealed that “regular consumption of acidic drinks such as wine, cider and alcopops can contribute to [tooth decay].” 

Put simply, yes, alcohol is bad for teeth and gums. Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. Alcohol’s diuretic effects lead to dry mouth, which accelerates tooth decay and the development of gum disease. According to Golden State Dentistry, “when you have dry mouth or are dehydrated, bacteria clings to the enamel and increases your risk of tooth decay.”
  2. Alcohol irritates and reduces blood flow to the gums, causing swelling, tenderness, and progressive periodontal disease. Unhealthy, inflamed gums cannot properly anchor and support the teeth, increasing the risk of tooth decay and eventual tooth loss.
  3. Alcohol’s high acidity can directly erode and dissolve the protective layer of enamel found on the surface of teeth, especially when combined with the acid from sugary mixers. Alcohol’s acidic pH drops the mouth’s environment below the 5.5 pH threshold necessary to erode enamel. This strips away protective coverings, giving bacteria easier access to damage teeth. 
  4. Many alcoholic drinks have a high sugar content. When alcohol is metabolized, ethanol (the main part of alcohol) is converted to acetaldehyde and then to acetate. Acetate can be used to produce glucose and other sugars that feed enamel-eroding oral bacteria.
  5. Heavy alcohol use often coincides with nutritional deficiencies or poor diet. People who drink too much lack the vitamins and minerals their teeth and gums need to stay healthy, such as vitamin C, calcium, and folic acid.
  6. Alcohol weakens the immune system, making it harder to fight off oral infections. A higher percentage of infections in the mouth means more gum issues, plaque buildup, and overall oral chaos.
  7. Those struggling with alcoholism are less likely to take proper care of their teeth by brushing and flossing habitually and getting professional cleanings. Neglected care of your pearly whites and your oral health, in general, serves to accelerate the development and progression of dental issues.
  8. Alcoholic beverages such as red wine and dark spirits can stain your teeth. Teeth discoloration may seem like a cosmetic concern, but deeply set stains can weaken tooth enamel, opening the door for more cavities and sensitivity issues.

Contact Ardu and get all the help you need to kick the booze for a healthier smile.

Does drinking alcohol cause bone loss in teeth?

Recent studies have demonstrated that alcohol consumption can exacerbate bone loss in the teeth. Researchers from the Medical University of Sofia revealed that “alcoholics have an increased rate of chronic, advanced generalized periodontal inflammations, gingivitis, bleeding of the interdental papillae and deep gingival pockets with related bone losses.”

A study published in the BDJ Team Journal highlighted that alcohol consumption increases the risk of dental and maxillofacial trauma. This means that excessive intake or binge drinking makes people more prone to falls, assaults, and accidents that damage teeth, jaws and facial bones at significantly higher rates compared to those who don’t drink.

Another study found that binge drinking episodes affect alveolar bone quality and aggravate bone loss in experimentally-induced periodontitis. Alveolar bone surrounds and supports tooth roots within the upper and lower jaw sockets, anchoring teeth in place. Loss or deterioration of alveolar bone makes it more likely for teeth to loosen or fall out. Chronic alcohol consumption can worsen alveolar bone loss, affecting bone density and calcium levels. 

These findings indicate that alcohol can directly impact bone homeostasis, leading to increased bone absorption and reduced bone formation, which can cause tooth loss and jaw damage. 

Can alcohol make your teeth fall out?

While an occasional glass of alcohol poses little risk to your pearly whites, ongoing heavy drinking and alcoholism can absolutely increase the chances of losing teeth prematurely. An article by the Royal College Surgeons of England claims that “alcoholics generally have a higher number of decayed teeth requiring extraction or restoration.”

We’ve already mentioned that alcohol is highly acidic. It erodes protective tooth enamel, allowing deeper access to decay bacteria which irritates gum. This exacerbates gum infections, allowing for the unabated progression of tooth decay. 

Alcoholics generally have a high incidence of decayed teeth which leads to either extraction of teeth (missing) or restoration (filling) of teeth. In particular, alcoholics suffer from more number of missing teeth as compared to non-alcoholics. (Khairnar, et. al.)

Nutrient deficiencies further deprive oral bones and gums of the nutritional building blocks they rely on to stay healthy. These deficiencies can reduce bone mineral density over time, and lead to a variety of bone-related issues.

Our nutrition therapy program offers counseling on how to fight addiction and improve your health through the development of a healthy diet and eating habits. Nutrition is important during recovery, and with proper treatment for addiction and the resulting damage to oral health, tooth loss can be prevented. 

Is alcohol in mouthwash bad for teeth?

Most dentists recommend mouthwashes to maintain good oral health and hygiene. Many popular mouthwash formulations contain alcohol, which acts as an antiseptic agent. But did you know that even the alcohol found in mouthwash can have negative effects on teeth? 

Remember the high acidity of alcohol? Whether you’re drinking it or swishing it in your mouth, ethanol can dissolve the enamel, paving the way for tooth decay. 

Alcohol-based mouthwashes can lead to dry mouth, increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. The high concentration of alcohol in mouthwash can also contribute to over-exposure, potentially increasing the risk of developing oral cancer

A 2009 article found that, while epidemiological data is mixed, alcohol itself adds little plaque-fighting benefit beyond other antiseptic ingredients. Given a potential cancer association, the authors recommend dental professionals advise patients to use alcohol-free formulations in order to minimize risks.

Riverstone Dental Care recommends switching your alcohol-based mouthwash with something healthier and more importantly alcohol-free. They explain that there’s no need to use daily mouthwash for fresh breath—rinsing with water after brushing and flossing is just fine.

If you do want to use a mouthwash to boost your mouth’s bacteria-fighting ability, buy an alcohol-free anti-plaque/anti-gingivitis mouthwash or a natural mouthwash. You can also buy sugar-free gum and mints with xylitol to freshen your breath and even help prevent tooth decay.

Can a dentist tell if you’re drinking alcohol?

Years of heavy drinking leave telltale signs in your mouth and on your teeth—of course your dentist can detect signs of alcohol abuse. With a quick examination, your dentist can easily spot teeth discoloration, eroded enamel, tooth decay, and other indicators of excessive drinking. They can also notice your dry, dehydrated mouth (and bad breath, for that matter) that’s causing unwanted bacteria growth. 

Your dentist can even tell that you’re not brushing or flossing regularly by the buildup of tartar and plaque. Gums recede and bleed more easily due to alcohol’s inflammatory effects, which often progresses quite rapidly into periodontitis in heavy drinkers. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize this unfortunate pattern resulting from alcohol dependency. 

Our team at Ardu may not be dental experts, but we are deeply committed when it comes to alcohol abuse recovery. Our compassionate, evidence-based alcohol rehab program can help free you from the chains of addiction one step at a time. We address the root causes of dependence and provide ongoing support through medically supervised detox, holistic detox, and a plethora of other programs to safely eliminate alcohol’s effects on your body.

Contact Ardu and get the personalized treatment you need to embark on your recovery journey. 

Ardu Recovery Center restores hope and healthy smiles

Ardu experts can help you take your first steps toward a new, healthier life. We offer specialized detox and rehab programs to suit your unique set of needs and make recovery as comfortable and successful as possible. 

We are located in stunning Provo, Utah, and have a full range of recovery programs and addiction resources.

  • With psychotherapy and other modalities of individual therapy, you gain coping skills and talk through the underlying causes behind unhealthy drinking patterns. We offer a wide range of therapeutic approaches, from cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing to dialectical behavioral therapy.
  • In a caring group therapy setting, you regain healthy social skills and build a network of support.
  • If your family wants to participate in your recovery, we offer family therapy sessions and private sessions to create trust and unity on the road ahead.
  • If you have a co-occurring disorder such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder, our dual diagnosis program will help you address both alcohol addiction and mental health.

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.

Is alcohol bad for teeth FAQ

What alcohol is the worst for your teeth?

The most damaging types of alcohol for your teeth are typically dark spirits such as whiskey, rum, or brandy. These darker drinks contain deep pigments from compounds like tannins that can tenaciously stain and discolor teeth over time. The pigments seep into microscopic pits and crevices, bonding to enamel in ways that make removal challenging even with diligent brushing. 

Beer, wine, and other types of alcoholic drinks can also be pretty bad for your teeth. Acidic mixers such as juice, soda, or lemonade also increase the enamel-eroding potential of alcoholic drinks. 

Does quitting drinking help your teeth?

If you quit excessive drinking, your teeth and general oral health may improve. First, you give your mouth a chance to rebalance its pH from extended bouts of acidity back to a more neutral state. This supports the rehardening and remineralization of enamel to rebuild eroded areas. 

Next, saliva flow and hydration rebound so tissues rehydrate and bathe teeth in protective compounds. As alcohol’s diuretic effect fades, saliva washes away more food debris and bacteria. Gums become less irritated and swollen, enabling the whole periodontal complex to stabilize. Quitting drinking also motivates improved self-care habits like brushing teeth and proper flossing which keeps new damage at bay.

Do teeth get whiter after quitting alcohol?

When you eliminate darkly-pigmented drinks, you give the extrinsic stains caused by drinking a chance to gradually fade. These drinks include red wine, brown liquor, and stout beers. As deep blemishes left by chromagens in alcohol are minimized through better hygiene and enamel remineralization, brighter underlying tooth shades can reemerge. 

If you smoke heavily on top of excessive drinking, quit both and eliminate the sources of tooth staining that cloud that natural pearly white. Remember that improvements manifest slowly, as years of accumulated tarnishing can’t be reversed overnight. Touch-up professional whitening treatments help accelerate the process.

Will my face improve if I stop drinking?

Heavy alcohol use can bloat facial features, enlarge pores, and create a ruddy complexion. After you quit drinking, your face will start to show marked improvements. Puffiness and excessive redness from dilated capillaries resolve. Skin regains elasticity and a firmer tone as collagen and circulation normalizes. 

Eyes visibly brighten, dark under-eye circles fade, and your face’s complexion looks more clear and evenly toned without ruddiness or those telltale vascular spiders. General facial aesthetics will transform dramatically over weeks to months of alcohol abstinence through natural detoxification.

How can I protect my teeth when drinking alcohol?

There are several precautions you can take to minimize the damage done to your teeth when you choose to drink alcohol:

  • Sip drinks slowly instead of gulping or taking big swigs. This limits sudden spikes in acidity and gives your saliva more time to neutralize pH levels in your mouth between sips.
  • Always chase alcoholic drinks with water. Swish and drink water to wash away sugars and acid residue from your teeth’s surfaces before they penetrate and soften enamel.
  • Avoid sugary mixers like juice, soda or lemonade with cocktails or liquor. They increase acid levels which erode enamel further. Opt for soda water or hydrating cucumber slices instead.
  • Only drink alcohol with meals, not on an empty stomach. Eating while drinking helps neutralize acidic effects and boosts saliva flow. Food also helps prevent upset stomach issues.
  • Use a straw when sipping cocktails and wine. Position the straw toward the back of your mouth to cut down contact with your front teeth, which are most prone to visible staining.
  • Swish with diluted baking soda water after drinking. The alkaline properties counterbalance damaging oral acid attacks to reharden softened enamel.
  • Be meticulous with oral hygiene before bed after a night of drinking. Take extra time brushing and flossing to clear all sugars and staining pigments before they sink in overnight while mouth tissues dehydrate. Use an alcohol-free antibacterial mouthwash.

Does beer damage teeth?

Beer can damage teeth. Beer’s acidity softens tooth enamel, putting surfaces at risk for increased staining and accelerated cavity formation. Acidity comes from carbonation, some flavor enhancers, and acids produced during fermentation.

Residual sugars from the fermentation process feed harmful cavity-causing bacteria on teeth. Bacteria metabolize these sugars into plaque acids which further erode enamel. Hops and grains like barley and wheat contain abrasives that may physically wear down enamel surfaces over time with consistent exposure.

In moderation and with good oral self-care, an occasional beer poses little risk of causing damage to your teeth. However, heavier and more frequent consumption can compound the damaging factors that degrade dental health.

Does wine ruin your teeth?

Wine can ruin your pearly whites due to staining, acid erosion, and damage caused by residual sugar buildup. Here’s how:

  • Pigments like tannins not only discolor but chemically bond to enamel in ways that are less receptive to removal from brushing. Over the course of multiple years, deep-set stains that are more permanent form. Red wine and darker varietals pose bigger staining threats.
  • All wines contain acids that soften and dissolve unprotected enamel. Acidity varies greatly, with sweet white wines often being the most acidic, while dry reds are less acidic.
  • Lingering sugars left after fermentation enable increased cavity-causing bacteria production when wines coat the teeth. Bacteria create plaque acid for additional erosion.

While the occasional glass of wine causes little harm with prompt and proper brushing, frequent wine drinking escalates the likelihood of dental damage over time. 


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

(2023, June 26). Alcohol and Tooth Decay and Gum Disease | Penn Dental Medicine. Penn Dental Medicine. https://penndentalmedicine.org/blog/is-alcohol-bad-for-your-teeth/

(2018). The relevance of alcohol to dental practice. BDJ Team, 5(2), 1-5. https://doi.org/10.1038/bdjteam.2018.25

Alcohol consumption can damage oral health, warn dental surgeons — Royal College of Surgeons. (n.d.). Royal College of Surgeons. https://www.rcseng.ac.uk/news-and-events/media-centre/press-releases/alcohol-and-teeth/

Y, G. (2019, July 11). The Harmful Effects of Alcohol on Teeth. https://www.goldenstatedentistry.com/blog/the-harmful-effects-of-alcohol-on-teeth

Peycheva, K., & Boteva, E. (2016, March 1). Effect of Alcohol to Oral Health. Acta Medica Bulgarica. https://doi.org/10.1515/amb-2016-0009

Cabrera Pazmino, V. F., Noronha Novaes, V. C., Mogami Bomfim, S. R., Hitomi Nagata, M. J., Pinto Oliveira, F. L., Matheus, H. R., & Ervolino, E. (2020). Chronic consumption of alcohol increases alveolar bone loss. PLoS ONE, 15(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0232731

Khairnar, M. R., Wadgave, U., & Khairnar, S. M. (2017, January 1). Effect of Alcoholism on Oral Health: A Review. Journal of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. https://doi.org/10.4172/2329-6488.1000266

Werner, C., & Seymour, R. A. (2009). Are alcohol containing mouthwashes safe? British Dental Journal, 207(10), E19. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.bdj.2009.1014

Care, R. D. (2018, June 29). Is Alcohol-Based Mouthwash Bad for You? | Riverstone Dental Care. Riverstone Dental Care. https://www.riverstonedentalcare.com/alcohol-mouthwash/

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