Dental Problems

Did you know drinking alcohol can be hard on the teeth? Alcohol can cause dental erosion. Dental erosion is defined as irreversible loss of dental hard tissue by a chemical process other than bacteria.


The minerals that make up the  tooth structure dissolve when they come into contact with acids in the mouth from internal sources (e.g., things like gastroesophageal reflux, vomiting) or external sources (e.g., acidic beverages, citrus fruits). This form of tooth surface loss is part of a larger picture of tooth wear.


Alcohol causes dental erosion problems two ways.  Heavy drinking can lead to frequent vomiting and the vomit is extremely acidic. But also many  alcoholic beverages such as wine and beer are acidic, and  the beverages (pops, juices) used in mixed drinks are also generally very acidic. High levels of consumption may also indicate chronic alcohol use problem, which increases the risk of frequent vomiting and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).


Sometimes enlargement of the parotid salivary glands (glands that secrete saliva in  the mouth) may be a sign of a chronic alcohol use problem.


Oral Cancer

In education module on oral health  in older adults prepared for Columbia University, dentist- instructor Janet Yellowitz  notes although oral cancer is only one-fifth as common as colon, lung or breast cancers, it is more than twice as common as cervical cancer. 


Oral cancer occurs more frequently in the older men than older women, and both alcohol and tobacco consumption have been identified as high risk behaviors. Citing Blot (1998) she goes on to point out the effects of alcohol and tobacco when combined explode the risk, and account for 75% of all oral cancers in the United States. For oral cancer, incidence rates steadily increase from middle adulthood until the seventh decade of life for both men and women.



Bevenius J,   & L’Estrange,  P. (1990) Chairside evaluation of salivary parameters in patients with tooth surface loss: a pilot  study. Aust Dent Journal,  Vol. 35, 219-221.

Blot, W.J., McLaughlin J.K., & Winn D.M. et al.  (1988) Smoking and drinking in relation to oral and pharyngeal cancer. Cancer Research, Vol. 48, 3282 - 3287.

Gandara, B. & Truelove, E. (1999). Diagnosis and Management of Dental Erosion. Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice, Volume 1, No. 1, Fall Issue. Online at :

Jarvinen, V., Rytomaa, I., & Meurmann, J.H. (1992). Location of dental erosion in a referred population. Caries Research,  26:391-396.

Simmons MS, & Thompson DC. (1987). Dental erosion secondary to ethanol-induced emesis. Oral Surgery,  Oral Medicine,  Oral Pathology, Vol.  64,731-733.

Smith B.G.N. & Robb N.D. (1987) Dental erosion in patients with chronic alcoholism. Journal of  Dentistry, Vol. 17, 219-221.


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