Both alcohol and drugs (illegal or otherwise) will have an effect on your teeth and gums. In this article, we are going to consider how alcohol and the use of illegal drugs can damage your mouth.

How does alcohol affect my mouth and teeth?

Alcoholic drinks can have a negative effect on your teeth and gums in many ways. Many alcoholic drinks such as wine and cider can be acidic and therefore cause damage to the enamel that covers your teeth.

Acidic foods and drinks such as white wine can gradually erode your teeth, washing away a small amount of tooth structure every time you consume them.

If drinking excessive alcohol causes you to vomit, the stomach acid brought up will also damage your teeth. This is particularly an issue for heavy drinkers and alcoholics. Every time acid comes into contact with your teeth, it causes a small amount of irreversible damage. Over time, these attacks from acid add up, causing permanent and significant wear that can weaken teeth. In extreme cases, this will ultimately lead to fracture and possible tooth loss.

It’s worth noting that many mixers such as fizzy drinks or fruit juice are very sugary. This sugar can contribute to tooth decay which is a leading cause of toothache and tooth loss.

How does alcohol affect the rest of my mouth?

Alcohol is thought to be a cause of oral cancer. This is increasingly likely if you also smoke because the effects of alcohol and smoking tobacco combine to put you at high risk of developing cancer in your mouth.

Oral cancer can start as an ulcer within the mouth that doesn’t go away. If you have an ulcer that has not resolved on its own after 2 weeks, you must visit a dentist to have it checked. Mouth cancer is extremely dangerous but if you can catch it early, treatment is more likely to be successful. If you ignore an ulcer that won’t go away, the cancer has longer to grow and spread.

There are many causes of ulcers within your mouth, not just oral cancer. If you would like to know more about what may be causing your ulcer, please read this article.

How might illegal drugs affect my teeth and gums?

The most common reason that drugs damage your teeth is that you simply forget to take care of them. If you are under the influence of drugs, you are less likely to remember to brush your teeth. On top of this, some drugs cause cravings for sugary, sweet food which can damage your teeth by causing tooth decay.

Some drugs such as heroin cause you to have a dry mouth. This makes you at even higher risk of tooth decay because there is less saliva in the mouth that protects and lubricates your mouth.

Drugs such as cocaine can cause you to clench or grind your teeth. This can cause teeth to wear or even break. This can also lead to disfunction, clicking or pain in your jaw joint due to this joint being overworked.

What about prescription drugs and medications?

Please note that medications prescribed by your doctor can also affect your teeth. If you would like to learn about how these prescription drugs affect your mouth, take a look at this article.

How can I prevent problems with my teeth caused by alcohol and drugs?

Brushing twice a day for at least two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste will help. Once you have finished brushing, spit out the toothpaste but do not rinse. This leaves a little bit of fluoride on your teeth that keeps protecting against acid damage and tooth decay. You must clean between your teeth at least once a day with either floss or interdental brushes to clean areas that your toothbrush cannot reach.

However, this is likely to only minimise damage caused by drugs and alcohol. The best way to prevent damage to your teeth and gums is to reduce these habits or stop completely.

Your GP and dentist will be able to offer you advice and support in doing this.

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