Oral & Vision Health Blog

What Does Alcohol Do to Your Teeth and Eyes? You Need to Know This

You can have a healthy lifestyle with occasional or moderate drinking. However, heavy alcohol use is linked to issues that affect your liver, brain, and blood sugar. And yes, it can also affect your oral health and vision health.


One of the most immediate effects of drinking alcohol is dry mouth. Alcohol can also lead to eating refined carbohydrates (or “munchies”) and people neglecting both personal and professional oral health care. Ultimately, it can cause dental disease and create a high risk for oral cancer.

Alcohol can also alter your vision through both short-term and long-term exposure. People with repeated exposure to alcohol are at risk of developing long-term or permanent vision issues.


Key Takeaways:

  • Alcohol can lead to oral cancer, gum disease, and teeth staining.
  • Alcohol can affect peripheral vision, and cause dry eyes, double vision, migraines, and optic nerve damage.
  • Drink in moderation and have plenty of water.
  • Brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and use floss.
  • Have regular checkups with your dentist and optician.
  • Talk with your doctor if you think you need help.


Alcohol Awareness Month is a public health program organized to remove the stigma that surrounds alcoholism and substance abuse through education and resources. It is important to understand the risk levels of alcohol consumption so you can make the best decisions for your mouth, eyes, and overall health.

What are the types of alcohol use?
There is moderate alcohol use, which generally means up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men. Heavy or high-risk drinking is defined as more than three drinks per day or more than seven drinks a week for people over 65. For men 65 and younger it is defined as more than four drinks per day or over 14 drinks a week. Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks within two hours for women and five or more drinks within two hours for men.

What makes alcohol bad for your teeth?
Alcohol has a wide-ranging effect on your general, social, and psychological health, which can influence dental treatment.

Alcoholic drinks like white wine, beer and cider are very acidic. This causes erosion of the enamel on your teeth. The same can be said of orange juice and mixers. When you eat or drink anything acidic, the enamel of your teeth is weakened.

Spirits such as vodka and whiskey have a higher alcohol content and will give you dry mouth. They will cause your saliva to work harder to return your mouth to a neutral level.

Many mixers and alcopops are high in sugar. When you consume these drinks, it reacts with the plaque in your mouth to produce plaque acids and can cause dental decay. These acids attack your teeth and cause dental decay.

The effects of alcohol on oral health:

  • Oral cancer: There is evidence that suggests moderate to heavy alcohol consumption is a risk factor for oral cancer. The risk of heavy drinkers developing oral cavity and pharynx (throat) cancers is five times higher. Heavy drinkers who also use tobacco are at substantially higher risks of these cancers.
  • Periodontal disease: Alcohol users are at an increased risk for widespread periodontal disease, per an NIH study. Alcohol dehydrates the body and causes your kidneys to expel more water than normal. It leads to dehydration throughout your body and decreases your flow of saliva. That’s why most people suffer dry mouth after drinking. You need saliva to keep your teeth moist and to help remove plaque and bacteria from the tooth’s surface. Dry mouth creates a perfect environment for periodontitis. You can see the effects through bleeding gums, plaque, gum recession, infection, and the development of pockets where the gums pull away from the teeth. Gum disease has been linked to higher incidences of cancer, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.
  • Staining: The color found in drinks comes from a substance called chromogen. It attaches itself to your tooth enamel and causes staining. This happens more easily when your teeth have already been compromised by the acid found in alcohol. One option is to drink alcoholic drinks with a straw. Avoiding dark sodas and red wine will help you avoid staining, as will rinsing your mouth with water in between drinks. Darker beers also cause staining due to the dark barley and malts used to make them.
  • Wear: Tooth damage related to alcohol is increased if you chew the ice in your drinks or add citrus fruit. Even just a squeeze of lemon can erode your tooth enamel. It can lead to yellowing, cavities, and sensitivity in your teeth and gums.


The effects of alcohol on your vision health:

  • Impaired vision: Drinking alcohol can impair your peripheral vision, resulting in tunnel vision. Alcohol can also alter your ability to visually adjust for brightness and contrast. So, common tasks like driving at night can become more difficult, since you have a harder time making distinctions between objects like stoplights.
  • Dry eyes and twitching: Regular consumption of alcohol can result in dry eyes and eyelid twitching, known as myokymia. This may trigger short-term burning and itching of the eyes, migraines, and sensitivity to light. Long-term symptoms can include the blood vessels in your eyes growing, making your eyes often appear red and bloodshot.
  • Cataracts: Regular use of alcohol can increase your risk of developing premature cataract formation. This commonly starts around 40 years of age. Long-term impairments may also include permanent blurring or double vision. This is caused by the weakening of the eye muscles.
  • Migraines: Alcohol use can make your eyes extremely sensitive to light and cause severe migraine headaches. It can present in people who regularly have migraines, or it can be brought on by alcohol for people who don't otherwise have migraines or headaches.
  • Optic neuropathy: Also referred to as toxic optic neuropathy, this is a visual impairment that results in optic nerve damage. It is caused by exposure to toxins like alcohol, drugs, metals, carbon dioxide, and tobacco. It results in partial loss of vision, decreased peripheral vision, and reduced color vision.


How can I look after my oral and vision health?

  • Drink in moderation and talk with your doctor if you think you need help.
  • Have plenty of water. It can wash away food and acid, as well as replenish the saliva in your mouth.
  • Brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste. Wait for one hour after eating or drinking. If you do it earlier you could brush away small particles of softened enamel, which can lead to dental erosion.
  • Use floss, as it can reach in between your teeth where tartar and plaque can form.
  • Use mouthwash. Just be sure to wait for at least one hour after brushing your teeth. Otherwise, it will wash away the fluoride from your toothpaste and lead to the risk of tooth decay.
  • Visit your dentist. They can work with you to reduce tartar build-up.
  • One study concluded that red wine kills oral bacteria associated with tooth decay (called streptococci). With that said, it should still be used in moderation.
  • Consider lubricating eye drops to treat bloodshot eyes caused by alcohol.
  • Go in for regular eye exams with your optician. They can help identify any problems with your vision.


This information is provided for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute providing medical advice or professional services. The information provided should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, and those seeking medical advice should consult with a licensed physician. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism, you can visit the website of American Addiction Centers for resources and support.


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