According to the Wine Market Council, wine consumption in the U.S. has grown over the past 20 years. Thanks to both its enjoyable attributes and purported health benefits, people seem to have even more of a reason to pour themselves a glass. However, what’s good for your taste buds and sense of well-being might not be so good for the teeth.
Recent studies have shown that an inappropriate amount, as well as the timing and manner of drinking wine can lead to acid erosion within the tooth enamel. Add in the bacterial tooth damage, and you’ll see that drinking too much is not beneficial to your oral health.
On an acidity/alkalinity pH scale of 0-14, with 7 the neutral point between acidic (0-6) and alkaline (8-14), the pH of wine reportedly ranges from 3.0 to 3.8 – white wine is slightly more acidic than red. The problem, dentists say, is that tooth enamel starts dissolving at a pH of 5.0 to 5.7 and its erosion is particularly accelerated when the pH falls below 4.0.
Wine’s acidity (mostly from tartaric and malic, as well as some citric and succinic acids) counters the mouth’s protective calcium and phosphate salivary salts. This results in tooth demineralization with softening of dental enamel—which can then be worn away when chewing or brushing the teeth.
Wine lovers who don’t want to give it up should consume the beverage in a way that minimizes tooth-enamel damage. Obviously, they should avoid drinking large volumes of wine.
However, when drinking, they should swallow it fairly quickly rather than sipping it slowly over an extended time period that prolongs tooth contact; and they should consume it with meals for the food’s “detergent” effect and the masticatory stimulation of protective saliva. Finally, brushing should be done afterwards but delayed for at least an hour to allow the salivary salts time to start the teeth’s remineralization process.
A soft-bristled toothbrush should be used in the proper manner demonstrated by a dentist, as should toothpaste containing fluoride. Also helpful are fluoride-infused mouthwashes (preferably alkaline) and/or topical applications. People who have a decreased saliva volume, are taking mouth-drying blood-pressure or antihistamine medications should take extra care.