How Damaging Is Alcohol For Teeth And Gums?

How Damaging Is Alcohol For Teeth And Gums?

Many people drink alcohol to some extent, but is this really harmful to our oral health?

You may have noticed in some of our Ipswich dental practice blogs, that alcohol is often mentioned alongside smoking when discussing certain problems, such as gum disease.

Whilst the majority of us would acknowledge smoking to be harmful, something that is now well established in fact; we may feel more ambivalent when it comes to alcohol. Although not everybody drinks, many of us do drink in moderation and may not feel that the little we consume could cause significant harm, especially to our teeth and gums.

Inevitably, the odd drink here and there will be less harmful than if you drink heavily each day. Even if you are a light drinker though, it is worth understanding the different ways that alcohol can affect your oral health.

Gum disease

Regular consumption of alcohol is likely to have a negative effect on your gum health. As many of us will know, alcohol causes dehydration and very often leaves us with a dry mouth in the morning. When you wake up like this, you may also notice a sticky ‘goo’ in your mouth. This is actually a collection of bacteria, and, although these bacteria are always present in our mouth, when our mouths are dry, they multiply much faster. The increased number of potentially harmful varieties can soon lead to gum disease if this is a frequent occurrence.


Linked to the increased number of bacteria is the possibility of halitosis. Whilst the smell of stale alcohol on the breath is unpleasant, it is nothing compared to the offensive odour of halitosis. The gases expelled by these bacteria, along with the smell of decaying soft tissue, can be very unpleasant indeed.

Poor healing

Following any dental surgery, and especially where significant intervention has been necessary, we advise our patients not to drink alcohol for a little while. This is because alcohol consumption can slow down the healing process, both slowing down the healing time and also, potentially, increasing the risk of infection. This is due to the alcohol causing the tiny blood vessels in the gum to narrow, thereby slowing down the supply of blood to the area.

Oral cancers

Although perhaps not as big of a threat as smoking, drinking alcohol to a significant extent is a real risk factor for oral cancer. This can be life changing or even life threatening.

Our advice

If you must drink alcohol, the advice of our team at the Foxhall Dental Practice is well worth putting into place.

  • Drink moderately, if at all. Alternate alcoholic drinks with soft drinks.
  • Make sure that you stay well hydrated and drink plenty of water before going to bed.
  • However much you have drunk, don’t be tempted to go to bed without cleaning your teeth. Doing so would be a sure way to increase the damage done while you sleep.
  • Even if you generally clean your teeth well at home, please see our hygienist to have your teeth and gums professionally cleaned every six months or so.

For advice on any problems you may be having with your teeth or gums, or to make an appointment at our Ipswich practice, please call the Foxhall Dental Practice on 01473 258396.