Giving up alcohol for Dry January has some unexpected benefits for your teeth. Here are the ways alcohol can damage your mouth, drinking alcohol is your choice but the Oral Health Foundation does encourage you to try Dry January.

What is Dry January?

Introduced by Alcohol Change UK, Dry January is a public health campaign that encourages people to give up alcohol for 31 days.

An unexpected benefit from Dry January for many people is the changes it can make to your mouth. Here are a few ways quitting alcohol can help your oral health.


All alcoholic drinks contain acid, but some drinks contain more acid than others. Wines, spirits, and beers are especially acidic. The most common acids found in alcoholic drinks are citric acid, tartaric acid, and malic acid.

Acids respond to bacteria in the mouth by creating lactic acid, which further destroys the tooth enamel. Acidic elements cling to the teeth, so if you don't practice good oral hygiene every day, your teeth are more vulnerable to acid damage.

Sugar Content

The sweeter alcohol tastes, the more sugar it contains. Alcopops are the worst offenders, but beers, wines and liqueurs are also filled with sugars.

The bacteria in our mouths feed on sugar, which makes them produce plaque acids leading to decay. Decay, if left untreated, can lead to demineralisation of the enamel, which is the loss of calcium and other minerals from the tooth.

Decay in the early stages can be easily treated, but if left too long, the tooth will need to be cleaned out and filled.


It’s well known that red wine stains your teeth. Though beers, coffee liqueur, and some cocktails are all guilty of staining teeth. Lots of people notice a difference in their confidence and satisfaction with their smiles when their teeth have some staining, and that can lead to lasting effects on your mental health.

If you like a glass of red wine every now and again, it’s even more important to clean your teeth properly. Combining less alcohol with a better oral hygiene routine will improve the colour of your teeth and help make sure that they remain unstained and healthy.

One of the benefits of going to see a hygienist is that they are trained and experienced at polishing your teeth, which can help remove stains. You might be surprised by how white a professional clean can make your teeth!


Dehydration is known to decrease the saliva your mouth produces and leads to a dry mouth.

Because alcohol is a diuretic. This means it encourages you to urinate as it pulls the excess water from your blood. This puts you at a higher risk of becoming dehydrated.

A dry mouth can cause lots of oral health problems. This includes dry lips; bad breath, loss of taste, recurrent mouth infections (like oral thrush), build-up of secretions, tooth decay and gum disease.

Mouth Cancer

Drinking alcohol to excess increases your risk of mouth cancer. Alcohol is linked to just under a third (30%) of all mouth cancers.

Signs of mouth cancer include red or white patches, non-healing ulcers, a hoarse voice, and lumps or swelling in the mouth and throat area. If you have any of these symptoms for three weeks or longer, then please talk to a doctor or dentist about them at your next check-up.


Stopping drinking suddenly can be very dangerous, and can even kill you, if you are dependent on alcohol. If, after a period of drinking, you experience any of the following symptoms, you may be dependent on alcohol, and you should NOT suddenly stop drinking suddenly:

  • seizures (fits)
  • hand tremors (‘the shakes’)
  • sweating
  • seeing things that are not actually real (visual hallucinations)
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia)

If you think you might be dependent on alcohol, then please consult a doctor so they can help you quit safely. Find out more information at Alcohol support - NHS (