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5 myths about alcohol consumption and your oral health

Can drinking alcohol affect your mouth’s health?

Get the facts! Learn the truth about these alcohol and oral health misconceptions.

Myth #1: Alcoholic drinks help you stay hydrated.

Fact: Drinks high in alcohol, like spirits, can dry out your mouth. Not only does this problem cause bad breath, it also boosts your chance of cavities. Saliva keeps teeth moist and helps to remove plaque and bacteria from the tooth’s surface.

Myth #2: Drinking beer won’t stain your teeth.

Fact: Beer is acidic, which means that teeth are more likely to be stained by the dark barley and malts found in darker beers. The color in beverages comes from chromogens,” explains Dr. John Grbic, director of oral biology and clinical research in dentistry at Columbia’s College of Dental Medicine. Chromogens attach to tooth enamel that’s been compromised by the acid in alcohol, and stain teeth.

Myth #3: Adding citrus (like orange juice or a spritz of lime) to an alcoholic beverage makes it healthier for your teeth.

Fact: The American Dental Association notes that even a squeeze of lemon provides enough acid to eat away at tooth enamel.

Myth #4: Alcohol consumption and oral health are unrelated.

Fact: Alcohol abuse is the second most common risk factor for oral cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition, individuals who suffer from alcohol dependency tend to have higher plaque levels on their teeth and are three times as likely to suffer from permanent tooth loss.

Myth #5: Frequent alcohol consumption cleanses your teeth and helps you avoid cavities.

Fact: The risk of developing cavities is higher for those who drink heavily. These individuals may experience dry mouth at night and neglect both personal and professional oral health care. One study suggests that they may consume higher levels of refined carbohydrates to satisfy their “munchies.” Heavy drinking can also lead to frequent vomiting, and the vomit is extremely acidic, damaging teeth.

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Published: January 2017

The oral health information on this web site is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.

SmileWay Wellness Program

Tips for cutting alcohol consumption

  • Drink more water. You’re less likely to reach for an alcohol-infused drink.

  • Find alternatives. Develop new activities, hobbies, and relationships that boost your well-being.

  • Know your "no." Have a polite, convincing "no, thanks" ready for those times when you’re offered a drink and don't want one.