Dry January – How reducing alcohol can improve oral health

by Lee Waring | Jan 04, 2018

January is the time when we all make an effort to exercise more, eat better and drink less - or quit completely to feel healthier.

But did you know that reducing the amount of alcohol you drink can significantly improve your oral health too?

So, why not take the challenge to stop drinking in January to give both your teeth, and your overall health, the best possible start to 2018.

How alcohol can affect oral health


That groggy feeling you have the day after drinking is often a result of dehydration. One of the effects of alcohol is that it stops your body from reabsorbing water. When your body doesn’t have enough fluid you might feel tired, dizzy and have a dry mouth because of decreased saliva.

A dry mouth is bad news for oral health because bacteria isn’t readily washed away from the surface of your teeth. In the long term this can increase the risk of tooth decay.


It can be easy to tell when someone has been drinking red wine thanks to the familiar staining to their lips and teeth. However, staining is not just limited to red wine. Any dark drink including stout, beer and lager, or drinks mixed with cola can cause staining over time.

This isn’t a great look cosmetically and eventually will need help from a dentist to remove.


Alcoholic drinks can contain a surprising amount of sugar. In a study carried out by The Telegraph it was discovered that a single pint of cider can contain five teaspoons of sugar – that’s two thirds of the current recommended daily maximum. Meanwhile cocktails can contain even more sugar thanks to all of the juices and mixers they contain.

The problem can stretch into the next day too, when it’s tempting to snack on sugary snacks as an energy boost to get through a hangover. Sugar feeds the bacteria, allowing them to multiply on the teeth and create harmful acids that can cause dental decay.

Mouth cancer

Those who regularly drink to excess are far more likely to suffer from oral cancer. A study in 2010 found that those who have four or more drinks a day have about five times the risk of developing mouth and pharynx cancers compared to occasional drinkers. However, those who both drink and smoke regularly are at even greater risk – up to 30 times.

If you’re in the habit of drinking regularly going dry in January could be a great opportunity to break some bad habits this year.

Tips for going dry in January

  • Try new activities – Don’t feel that you have to lock yourself away from temptation. Just choose some new things to do on your nights out! It’s Oscar season so there’s some great things coming up at the cinema for example.
  • Save the cash – Work out how much you’d usually spend on drinks both at home and out each week and put it aside. At the end of the month spend it on something you enjoy or keep going and save up.
  • Break the habit – Work out when you’re most likely to drink and distract yourself. Are you most tempted when you get in from work? You could have a relaxing bubble bath instead to help you chill out after a busy day.
  • Tell your friends – Let your friends be your conscious, you can guarantee they’ll give you a reminder should you be tempted by an alcoholic drink!

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