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How can alcohol affect your teeth?

May 8, 2021

For most people, the easing of restrictions and the reopening of pubs gives us a chance to spend more time with our loved ones and celebrate our newfound freedom by saying cheers with an alcoholic drink.  While we are not encouraging consuming alcohol and recommend you drink in moderation it’s important to know the facts on how drinking alcohol can affect your teeth and oral health.

What are the safe levels of alcohol consumption?

Drinking high levels of alcohol can increase your risk of oral cancer, tooth decay and tooth erosion. In fact, it has been estimated that those who regularly drink and smoke heavily are 38 times more at risk of developing oral cancer.

So what are the safe levels of alcohol consumption? Official advice in the UK is that nobody should consume more than 14 units of alcohol in a week. One unit equals 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol, which is around the amount of alcohol the average adult can process in an hour.

To put that into perspective, a 137ml glass of wine is around 2.3 units and a bottle of wine is approximately 13 units. A pint of strong lager is roughly 3 units and a double measure of gin is 1.8 units.


Consuming high levels of alcohol can dramatically increase your risk of erosion. Especially if you are regularly drinking acidic beverages such as champagne, wine, alcopops and cider.

Wine contains a combination of tartaric, lactic, citric, malic, acetic and succinic acids. This is in fact how it gets a large proportion of the body. However, unfortunately for us, that combination loves to eat away at our teeth’s enamel. Although our teeth are made up from the hardest tissue found in the human body, they are still prone to damage from acid erosion.  Sadly, once the enamel on our teeth has gone, you can’t bring it back.

The pH in your mouth is around 6.2 to 7 and erosion tends to occur when your pH falls to 5.7 or lower. Most wines on average have a pH of 2.9 to 3.5, which creates the right conditions for the erosive process to begin.

Champagne may taste great, however it actually contains much more sugar and a higher level of acidity compared to wine and  for those reasons is definitely best kept for celebrations.  However, some of the champagne houses are producing a Brut Nature or Extra Brut champagne which has no or very little sugar. While it’s still acidic in nature at least the lowered sugar content is a step in the right direction if this is your drink of choice.

So what can you drink then?

A less acidic option is gin which is one of the least acidic alcoholic drinks and contains no added sugars and also has less alcoholic units than a glass of wine.  You do need to be mindful of what you mix your gin with though. Tonic water has a pH of 3 which is in the danger zone for teeth…

Another option is to enjoy your wine with other food which helps to buffer the effect of acid. Acidic drinks consumed with meals are less damaging to your teeth compared to being drunk on their own.

Lastly, if you are going to drink an acidic drink by itself, avoid brushing your teeth for an hour afterwards.  This way you reduce the risk of damaging/abrading the enamel that has been softened by the acid.


You may not have thought dehydration could affect your teeth, but it can. When you consume excessive amounts of alcohol you will actually decrease the amount of saliva in your mouth. This decrease in saliva means that bacteria that is usually naturally washed away is now able to build up and ends up clinging onto the enamel of your teeth and will ultimately increase your risk of tooth decay. If you are drinking alcohol, we recommend alternating your drink with a glass of water to help replenish the saliva in your mouth to keep that bacteria at bay and to avoid dehydration.

Watching your sugar content

We are sure that this will come as no surprise to you, but having a high sugar intake can really increase your chances of tooth decay and gum problems. The bacteria in your mouth thrive on sugar, so choosing a sweet beverage can cause the bacteria to multiply. We recommend choosing drinks that are low in sugar to ensure that the bacteria in your mouth struggles to reproduce.  It takes just 5 minutes for the bacteria to start the decay process and up to 60 minutes to stop.  That’s why a high frequency of  sugary snacks and drinks creates havoc in your mouth. Your teeth have barely recovered before you hit them with another sugar attack and demineralised patches of the enamel progress to become cavities.

Did you know that a glass of wine can range from ½ to 2 teaspoons  of sugar per 175ml serving.  White wine generally contains more sugar than red wine.  Dessert wines, port and fortified wines are at 2 teaspoons end of the scale.  The dry or brut options are your best bet if you want to keep your sugar consumption under control and reduce your risk of developing cavities.

A healthy approach

Of course, wherever possible we recommend drinking healthier drinks such as water and staying within the recommended safe limits for alcohol consumption which is 14 units per week for men and women.

Remember that  you can swap for a dry wine or champagne to avoid unnecessary sugar, consume acidic drinks with food and sip water in between your drinks to keep your mouth hydrated.

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The whole team is friendly and professional and they have the comfiest dental chair I've ever sat in!

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My most trusted place for any dental issues. Kush is excellent at what he does and the staff is friendly and makes you comfortable.

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Cath Freestone has been my dentist for just over three years. She has been fantastic and I recommend smilehub highly.

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Sam Cook

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Find us

Smile Hub Spitalfields

8a Brushfield Street
E1 6AN

Opening times

Monday - Friday

9am - 5pm


9am - 1pm

(By appointment only for Invisalign and composite bonding)



Smile Hub Linklaters

Linklaters Wellness Centre
2nd Floor Milton House
One Silk Street

Opening times

Tuesday - Thursday

9am - 5pm

Monday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday


Smile Hub UBS

UBS Dental Suite
First floor, UBS Medical Centre
5 Broadgate

Opening times

Monday - Thursday

9am - 5pm

Friday - Sunday