Why Red Wine Is Damaging To Your Teeth

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Medically reviewed by Danielle Romatz, RDH

A glass of red wine to relax at the end of the day is something many people enjoy, and red wine is even considered to be heart healthy in moderation. But what effect does wine have your teeth? That reddish color certainly can’t help your pearly whites stay pearly white, can it?

Red wine is high in acidity, so it can degrade your enamel and make it more likely to take on coloration. Wine also contains “anthocyanins”, the reddish pigment found in grapes, and when you drink wine this pigment can get stuck on your teeth. Consuming wine with food helps decrease this effect.

So red wine isn’t exactly your best friend when it comes to teeth. However, this doesn’t mean you need to stop consuming wine entirely. If you wish to reduce the risk of tooth erosion, drink your wine in moderation with a meal, and take other measures to keep your oral health in top-shape. Let’s take a closer look at the effects of wine on your teeth.

What Does Red Wine Do to Your Teeth?

Young beautiful woman with curly hair drinking glass of red wine

Teeth are made up of a thin enamel shell, a thick dentin core, and the pulp. The enamel is the outer shell of the tooth, and it’s what is most affected by wine. While enamel is the hardest part of the teeth, it is also the most susceptible to erosion caused by acids.

When your tooth enamel becomes eroded, the inside of the teeth is exposed to cavity-causing factors.

Although red wine is acidic, which isn’t good for your teeth, one study did show that red wine kills oral bacteria called streptococci, which are linked to tooth decay.

Nonetheless, high consumption of alcohol of any kind increases the risks of tooth erosion. This harms your teeth and wears your enamel away. The same content that wears the enamel is also the same ingredient that stains your teeth.

If you consume a glass of wine and look in the mirror, you can immediately see that your teeth are slightly less white than before you took the wine, so that gives you an idea of what’s going on.

While wine may contain cavity-preventing germs, it will leave your teeth susceptible to other cavity-worsening factors and stains.

Why Does Red Wine Stain Your Teeth?

Red wine, unlike white wine, contains chromagen, which is the same pigment found in coffee and tea and also the ingredient that stains the teeth. The chromagens bind to the teeth and cause stains.

It must be noted that red wine also comes with tannins, which also has a binding effect. The chromagen and tannins give red wine its tinted color.

The acidic component of red wine can cause enamel to be more porous, leaving your teeth prone to the effects of pigment. The red wine’s anthocyanins and the tannins support the pigments to bind to your teeth.

This discoloration occurs because red wine includes acids, tannins, and natural dyes, all of which can etch and stain teeth. It can turn your teeth a soft purple color, and the alcohol concentration in red wine tears down the enamel, making the teeth more vulnerable to staining and yellowing.

Your teeth could become soft after consuming red wine. With long-term consumption, your teeth can become brown, blue, gray, or purple from the binding effects of acids, the tannins and the natural dyes in wine. 

How Can You Avoid Staining Your Teeth With Red Wine?

Young beautiful redhead woman drinking glass of red wine

Giving up on wine can certainly help keep your teeth free from stains, but that’s not necessarily the most realistic option. Here are some techniques to use to help you mitigate the effects of wine on your teeth:

  • Although you might immediately think to brush your teeth after drinking wine, it’s actually a good idea to do so before you drink.

    Food particles that stick to your teeth can contribute to the staining process, because they’re absorbent. When you drink wine, the particles can turn the color of wine and give the purplish look you want to avoid.
  • Flossing can also be effective, especially in reaching areas of your teeth that your toothbrush can’t get to.
  • You can use a straw to help the wine bypass the teeth and go straight to your tongue. While red wine isn’t something you necessarily want to drink with a straw, you might consider red wine-based sangria, which is much more commonly consumed via a straw.
  • Drink your wine with crunchy foods. Crunchy vegetables such as carrots can clean the teeth as you chew them. Eating these vegetables while drinking can help keep your teeth free from stains.
  • Chewing a sugar-free gum like Orbit (on Amazon) can also help clean debris away from your teeth, especially if you don’t have access to a toothbrush. Chew the gum before drinking your wine.
  • Combine your wine consumption with water. Drinking water can help wash down the wine and prevent teeth staining. To effectively do this, simply drink a glass of water and then a glass of wine, but swish the water around your mouth before you swallow it.

Can Red Wine Lead to Long-Term Dental Damage?

Red wine can cause short- and long-term damage because of its alcoholic nature. It can lead to tooth sensitivity, tooth decay, staining of teeth, and gum sensitivity. Long-term alcohol consumption can lead to permanent issues when not paired with good oral hygiene.

The most immediate concern is teeth yellowing and coloration, which increases with consumption over a long time.

There is no need to be afraid of having a glass of wine or two occasionally. This small quantity shouldn’t have much of an impact on your teeth. You can always brush your teeth after drinking your wine to help keep them clean.

Considering all the health issues arising from the drinking of wine, consuming it in moderation is the best thing to do. Moderation helps to reduce the risks of tooth erosion and infection. So, drink responsibly!

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