To a lot of people, nothing says a healthy smile like brilliantly bright teeth. A smile that dazzles makes a strong first impression, while one dimmed by years of eating and drinking enamel staining foods and beverages can often become a source of embarrassment. While you might think that keeping a smile looking its best simply means avoiding the items that can stain tooth enamel, the truth is far more unfair.
If you’ve ever split a bottle of pinot noir among friends, you may have noticed that the red wine doesn’t have the same effect on everyone’s teeth. Whether you’re lucky enough to avoid stains or appear to have colored your teeth with a purple marker after drinking red wine, know that your genes and oral hygiene habits play just a big a role as the tannins inside the bottle.
Wine and Your Teeth
The mix of compounds found in red wine make it the perfect beverage for staining your teeth. First, red wine has a high acidity, which allows it to breakdown your enamel at a microscopic level, making the surface of your teeth less even and more likely that pigments in the wine will stick.
Red wine also contains anthocyanins, the natural pigment that gives red wine its deep color, as well as tannins, which stimulate those pigments to bind with your enamel. While white wine is also high in acidity and tannins – though lower than red wine – it doesn’t contain the dark pigments that stain your teeth. This doesn’t mean that drinking white wine won’t impact your oral health overall, just that it won’t contribute to tooth discoloration.
To Stain or Not to Stain
If the compounds in red wine cause tooth discoloration then anyone who drinks enough red wine should have to deal with a dim looking smile, right? Unfortunately, no. Some people are just better equipped genetically to handle the effects of smile staining compounds than others. If you’re born with healthy teeth that feature strong protective shells of enamel, you may be able to drink and eat all of the items that typically lead to staining without suffering the consequences.
A layer of minerals that surround the delicate interior of our teeth, enamel ranks as one of the strongest substances in the human body. Enamel makes our teeth resistant to acidic foods and stains, and how much of it you have surrounding your teeth is often left up to the genes we inherited. Age can also play a factor, as enamel tends to thin over time and doesn’t grow back.
However, even if your genes seem to be conspiring against you, that doesn’t mean you have to forego enjoying your favorite foods and drink in order to maintain a great looking smile. You can prevent the negative effects of drinking wine, or at least minimize them, by practicing quality oral hygiene at home.
Teeth covered in plaque – a stick biofilm made of harmful oral bacteria and food particles that linger in the mouth after eating – are more likely to stain. By brushing your teeth at least twice a day, and flossing daily, you can reduce plaque buildup.
If you plan on heading out to your local wine bar and want to prevent “grape mouth”, make sure to brush your teeth beforehand. This will remove a sizeable amount of plaque from your teeth that could otherwise act like a magnet for drawing pigments to your enamel. Because brushing can scratch your enamel, try to wait at least 30 minutes after brushing for drinking any wine.