Red Wine, Red Teeth?

11/27/2012

With the upcoming holiday season, festive office parties and neighborhood celebrations are punctuated with great conversations, delicious food, hearty laughter and libations.  With these festivities, it’s not uncommon for some adults to increase their intake of red wine.   You may want to consider if red wine can stain your teeth darker?

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Is it just too good to be true?

The answer is yes.  Red wine can darken the value of teeth.

The outside layer of healthy teeth is called enamel.  The enamel has many layers of color and translucency built into the tooth structure.  The various layers all contribute to tooth color.

Now, for some color terms.  The color of teeth is called hue. Chroma is the intensity of a color.  The degree of brightness of teeth is called value.

When you drink red wine or white wine there are acids present that increase the porosity of teeth.  As the pores of teeth open more, chemical stains can occur and make your teeth darker.  The tannins in wine interact with the enamel surface of healthy teeth.  This interaction causes the value of teeth to decrease.  In other words, red wine causes the surface of teeth to darken.  As the value of tooth enamel gets darker, the tooth color changes and the chroma intensifies.  This can cause your teeth to appear dirty.

Red wine contains chemicals that are called tannins.  Tannins are responsible for color and flavor in wine.  The skin, seeds and stems of grapes impart the color and texture to wine.  Red wine has more tannins that white wine.

When the pH (level of acidity) in the mouth drops below 5.5, the acids from wine can start to erode and damage your teeth.  Wines can cause cavities.  The damage from cavities may make spots that are white, red, yellow, orange, gray, black or brown in color. 

Here are 5 tips to prevent red wines from staining your teeth:

1. Rinse with neutral to alkaline water.

Some water supplies have an acidic nature, which contributes to more stains on teeth.  Research the pH of the water supply you use such as tap water, filtered water, or bottled water.

Prepare a glass of water prior to wine consumption.  This serves as a reminder to rinse your mouth with water.  Rinsing with water serves two purposes -- it rinses the acids from the mouth and rinses the staining potential from your teeth.

2. Rinse with a fluoride mouthwash.

Fluoride will strengthen the outer layer of enamel.

3. Brush and floss following the principles of Dirty Mouth.

Think before you eat and drink, especially with red wine. Clean, rinse and maintain for optimal oral health and bright teeth. 

Follow the 7 Minute Window.

4. Drink through a straw.

It allows you to bypass the outer layers of the front teeth, where stains are more visible.

5. Ask your dentist about brightening teeth.

Your dentist may have all the latest methods of products used to safely brighten your teeth.  If your teeth have already been stained, you may need a professional hygiene visit to remove stains, tartar, calculus, and cavities.  Beware of untested over the counter products.

Enjoy your glass of Merlot…


Dr. Joe Kravitz is a dental expert who specializes in fixing people’s mouths with fillings, inlays, crowns, veneers, dentures and implants. He is on a quest to get people to think about oral health.

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