The recent move to ban plastic straws by various large and small companies has received mixed reviews. Some people say it’s a great move for the environment, some people say it’s not going far enough, and some people wish to keep using straws either due to special needs, or a preference for drinking through a straw. One of my coworkers is a die-hard straw user. From her morning coffee to her happy hour wine, she consumes everything through a straw so as not to stain her teeth. So let’s talk about what exactly is going on with our teeth and our favorite beverage.
Wine affects teeth through three primary causes: pigment, acidity, and wear. Pigmentation related staining is particularly related to red wine, as one might suspect. Red wine contains chromogens, a compound which produces the coloration in things like coffees, berries, etc. When consumed, they stick to the enamel of the teeth and cause staining. The tannins in drinks like red wine and coffee are particularly good at binding the chromogens to the enamel.
While white wine does not cause pigmentation related staining, it is a prime culprit for acid related damage. High acidity wines can cause yellowing due to the acids slowly wearing away the white enamel of the tooth, allowing the underlying yellow dentin to show through.
Wine doesn’t necessarily cause wear, but the standard microscopic cracks that develop from years of usage form the perfect spot for the various acids, chromogens, and tannins in wine to settle into the enamel and create difficult to remove stains.
Some steps you can take to minimize wine related staining include:
- Brushing your teeth before an event where you know you’ll be drinking wine in order to minimize plaque for the chromogens to cling to
- Eating while drinking (certain foods can act as a barrier against acids or scrub away the beginnings of stains if they’re particularly fibrous)
- Rinsing your mouth afterwards. It’s not good to let wine sit around in your mouth for too long, but one of the worst things you can do regarding staining is to actually brush your teeth immediately after drinking wine. Enamel is particularly sensitive after eating or drinking and the act of brushing exposes you enamel to the acidic environment in your mouth immediately post wine. It is generally considered to be best to wait 30 minutes before brushing.
There’s no reason to let fear of stains keep you from enjoying your wine, but hopefully these tips will help you protect your pearly whites!