Shield Your Smile From the Risks of Alcohol

By Claudia Rojas on March 12, 2024 in General oral health

man and woman in a picnic

Many people enjoy the occasional drink when celebrating or catching up with family and friends. And that’s just fine! But it’s also important to be aware that consuming alcohol, even in small amounts, can cause harm to your oral and overall health.

How much alcohol is too much?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines heavy drinking as eight or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more per week for men. On occasions when you do drink, they recommend a limit of two drinks for men and one for women.

How alcohol harms your oral health

The oral health risks of drinking alcohol are likely greater than you’d guess – even if you’re drinking in moderation.  

  • Simply chewing the ice in a cocktail can fracture a tooth or do damage to fillings and crowns.
  • Drinks with a dark color (like red wine or stout beers) can stain your teeth.
  • Alcohol lowers saliva production and contributes to dry mouth, which can lead to persistent bad breath and other oral health problems, such as gum disease and cavities (dental caries).
  • The sugar in many alcoholic drinks can feed oral bacteria and plaque, making cavities more likely.
  • Acidic or carbonated beverages can wear down tooth enamel and boost tooth sensitivity.
  • Drinking in excess can result in falls that cause injuries to the mouth.
  • Heavy drinking can weaken your immune system and increase your risk for gum disease.
  • People who regularly drink more than two alcoholic beverages per day are more likely to develop mouth, throat, or esophagus oral cancer than those who consume alcohol infrequently or not at all.

The risks of frequent alcohol consumption extend to your overall health, too. Heavy drinking makes you more likely to suffer from memory and mental health issues, liver and cardiovascular disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and many forms of cancer.

You can minimize your oral health risk

Is it possible to enjoy alcohol without harming your oral health? While some risk will always remain, there are ways to reduce the damage it causes to your teeth and gums.

  • Reduce your alcohol consumption. Simply drinking less is the easiest way to reduce your exposure to alcohol-related risks!
  • Avoid acidic garnishes: Lemons, limes, and some other common cocktail garnishes increase the acidity of your drink and can soften your tooth enamel.
  • Stay hydrated. Consuming water between drinks will help your mouth rehydrate and wash down bacteria, sugar, and acids from the alcoholic drink.
  • Remember your oral health routine. This means seeing your dentist regularly for your scheduled cleanings, brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and flossing. After your last drink, wait at least 30 minutes to brush – otherwise, acidity from the drink may wear down your enamel.

Two in three adult drinkers report drinking above moderate levels at least once a month.1

Help is there if you need it

Warning signs of alcoholism include when frequent drinking interferes with your work or personal life, or when you experience withdrawal symptoms such as shakiness, irritability, and sweating. Learn more about these warning signs and where to find help at

1Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol (2022, April 19) from