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Is Red Wine Actually Good for Your Teeth?

Photo credit: Terry Vlisidis / Unsplash

People with veneers and the kind of perfect smile sported by Hollywood stars often shun beverages like coffee and red wine because of their effect on tooth color. But did you know that red wine can actually be beneficial for your teeth in unsuspected ways? Research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (JAFC) shows that wine contains polyphenols — plant-based compounds with antioxidant properties — that can actually help keep cavities and gum disease at bay.

Red Wine vs. Bacteria

In the study, researchers investigated the effect of red wine polyphenols (as well as grape seed extracts and red wine extracts) in the bacteria that stick to teeth and gums and cause cavities and gum disease. They found that two polyphenols in particular (caffeic and p-coumaric acids) performed better than the extracts at reducing the bacteria’s ability to stick to oral surfaces. Their power at doing so was enhanced by combining them with an oral probiotic. The researchers believe that the reason for the protective effects of these polyphenols was the production of metabolites upon digestion of these helpful polyphenols.

Moreover, two streptococci in particular are reduced by wine polyphenols. These are alpha-haemolytic streptococci and beta-haemolytic streptococci. These bacteria are normally found on skin and in the throat. The researchers found that antioxidant wine can help reduce the chance of illnesses caused by these bacteria.

Why Removing Bacteria from Tooth and Gum Surfaces is Key

Bacteria on teeth and gums can do more than cause cavities and gingivitis. As stated by Harvard University academics, people with gum disease have two to three times the chance of having a heart attack or stroke. The case is even worse for those who follow an unhealthy diet and those who breathe through their mouth during sleep. This is because when people sleep with their mouth open, bacteria have no chance to be washed away from surfaces. It is a wakeup call for those with this type of problem to seek solutions from a sleep specialist. Removing bacteria efficiently through brushing and flossing is also important. That is, wine can play an important role in promoting good oral health, but it must be supported by good oral hygiene.

What Do Researchers Recommend?

Many studies have shown that moderate wine consumption can benefit human health, helping to keep heart disease and some types of cancer at bay. "Our findings seem to indicate that wine can act as an effective antimicrobial agent against the tested pathogenic oral streptococci and might be active in caries and upper respiratory tract pathologies prevention,” said the scientists in the JAFC study. They added that benefits could also be enjoyed from white wine, which is contrary to the myth that states that only red wine is healthful.

What About Tooth Staining?

If you already enjoy a glass or two of wine for lunch or dinner, you may wonder how to reduce the effect of staining on your teeth. Two factors determine the extent to which your teeth will be stained by red wine: the nature of your enamel, and the type of grape used. As a general rule, the darker the wine is, the more likely it can stain teeth. To battle staining, opt for lighter-bodied wines, brush teeth around half an hour before drinking (since wine sticks to the plaque film on your teeth), and go for regular professional cleaning treatments at your dentist.

Red (and white) wine can help reduce plaque build-up on your teeth, owing to their polyphenol content. To enhance wine’s healthful effects, enjoy your favorite bottle in moderation and combine it with a Mediterranean meal. Finally, ensure your teeth are clean and plaque-free to reduce staining.

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