Red, red wine, it makes you feel so fine — until you realize that it’s doing a number on your smile. Antioxidant-rich red wine may have a long list of health benefits to back it, but dark-colored vino is also known to discolor the teeth.
Take heart. There are some easy ways to wash away those wine stains so that what you drink isn’t written all over your teeth. And lest you think sticking to white is the solution, think again. A New York University study found that white wine can be as bad for your teeth as red because it darkens the stains left by other culprits, like tea and coffee.
“The acids in [white] wine create rough spots and grooves that enable chemicals in other beverages that cause staining, such as coffee and tea, to penetrate deeper into the tooth,” said study leader Dr. Mark Wolff, professor and chairman of the Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care at NYU College of Dentistry, in a statement about the findings.
So, what’s a wine-loving gal to do? Here are eight tips for keeping those pearly whites, um, pearly white while sipping all that red.
1. Brush your teeth before you drink wine
Rinse your mouth out, too, while you’re at it, since wine sticks to the plaque on your teeth. Yuck!
2. Wait at least an hour after sipping that glass of red or white before you brush again
That’s what dentists advise because the enamel on your teeth is weakened by the acidity found in wine, making them super sensitive to the abrasiveness of the bristles on your brush.
3. Alternate sips of wine with sips of water
That way, the stains wash away as you go. Sparkling water is even more effective than flat because of its bubbles, but either will do.
4. Take bites of hard cheese
Or opt for other high-fiber, low-acid foods with your wine. How perfect, right? Wine and cheese just go together naturally — but maybe there’s a reason. Cheese helps get the saliva flowing, which sticks to the enamel and balances your mouth’s pH. The result? Your teeth are protected from the harsh acids in wine. Other snacks to try for the same effect are nuts, non-acidic fruits and vegetables and even spinach, according to Maryland dentist Dr. Scott Finlay in his guidelines on preventing wine stains on your teeth. Yum?
5. Use a damp gauze pad to wipe the purple stains off your teeth
Do that after you’re all finished with your wine. And even if you’ve been drinking white, it’s a good idea to do the same thing. Hold off on brushing your teeth to avoid wearing down the enamel. This way, the pH balance in your mouth has the chance to get back to normal.
6. Use a lime wedge for teeth-staining “emergencies”
For a quick fix, grab a slice of lime from the bar or the fridge and rub it on your teeth and lips, Dr. Finlay recommends. You’ll be amazed at how fast the wine stains disappear. But, don’t resort to that trick too often, since citrus fruits are also acidic and thus hard on the teeth.
7. Chew gum
“Chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes also activates saliva and helps wash away stains,” says Dr. Finlay. An added plus: It will keep your breath smelling sweet.
8. Brush and floss as usual before bedtime
Unless you hit the hay less than an hour after you take your last gulp of wine, give your teeth a good brushing and flossing right before you go to sleep. That will get them nice and clean without scratching off the enamel or otherwise harming them.
The irony of all this is that red wine actually has an ingredient that’s good for your teeth: polyphenols, which stop the bacteria-causing decay from clinging to your teeth. So, drink up (within reason, of course). Just follow these tips on how to stop those stains from setting so you can enjoy your favorite glass of red and white.
Updated by Bethany Ramos on 2/15/2016