7 Ways To Prevent Wine-Stained Teeth

With the holidays (and a long winter) around the corner, we might be pouring ourselves an extra glass — or two. Here’s how to keep your smile bright and white.
Expert Opinion
Written by Samantha Stone
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7 Ways To Prevent Wine-Stained TeethKelsey Knight/Unsplash

With the holidays (and a long winter) around the corner, we might be pouring ourselves an extra glass — or two — of wine. While there’s nothing quite like a good, full-bodied glass of red, it can leave our pearly whites stained. “Red wine is famously high in tannins, an astringent biomolecule that can give wine ‘body’ and make your mouth pucker,” says Alina Lane, DDS, a cosmetic dentist at All Smiles in New York City. “As delicious as they are for flavor, tannins have some characteristics that can make a drinker's teeth look darker.”

To add insult to injury, red wine also contains acids and anthocyanins (pigments) that contribute to teeth stains. “The acid erodes the enamel making it more porous, and the tannins bind the pigments to the porous enamel,” explains Stacy Spizuoco, DDS, a New York City-based cosmetic dentist with Onsite Dental and clinical instructor at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine. While the tooth discoloration can be shocking at first, it's usually just temporary when addressed immediately. Follow these seven steps to prevent wine-stained teeth this holiday season.

1. Brush First

A quick and easy way to prevent wine stains (or any stains for that matter) is to brush your teeth right before pouring a glass of wine. “Before going out for the night, it is a good idea to brush your teeth, which will help to eliminate plaque, a soft biofilm that the tannins can cling to,” Dr. Lane shares. “When teeth are smoother and plaque-free, it is harder for the wine molecules to cling to the tooth surface.” While you can’t necessarily remove all the plaque from a single brush, you can remove most of it and minimize your chances of the dreaded purple teeth.

2. Don’t Start With White Wine

When in doubt, don’t mix your whites and your reds. “Some people believe that drinking white wine before red can stain your teeth faster,” Dr. Lane says. And there may be some truth to it. “Since white wine is generally more acidic and acid will roughen tooth enamel when it is exposed for long enough, the roughened enamel will catch the wine stains faster,” she explains.

3. Drink Sparkling Water

Alternating your refills with water isn’t just good for warding off a headache, it’s good for your teeth, too. “It’s a good idea to drink water between glasses of red wine to help remove stains from sticking,” Dr. Spizuoco suggests. “The water washes away the tannins and pigments.”

If you have the choice, opt for sparkling. “It’s believed that sparkling water is best, as the carbonation will fizz to scrub away any stains similar to using club soda on clothing stains,” she adds. The bubbles from the sparkling water will help release the stains from the plaque. Swish it around your mouth (like mouthwash) for best results.

4. Use a Straw

Normally we advise skipping straws. They are an unexpected cause of wrinkles, and the plastic ones aren't good for the environment. But drinking wine through a straw can help prevent staining. We can’t promise no one will judge you, but it will minimize the wine’s contact with your teeth and preserve your lipstick.

5. Pair Your Wine With Cheese

Need an excuse to eat more cheese? Dr. Spizuoco has one. “Eating cheese while drinking red wine is not just tasty but beneficial in preventing stains,” she says. “Cheese has calcium in it that minimizes acidity in the mouth. Proteins also help in that they create a stain-blocking barrier on the enamel.” Music to our ears.

While cheese is definitely our first choice, Dr. Spizuoco notes that eating any food that is high in calcium will help. Leafy greens, legumes, or seafood are just a few calcium-rich foods to have on your radar. She also encourages people to strengthen the enamel to prevent stains. Vitamin D helps with absorption of calcium and vitamin A builds strong bones and teeth.

6. Eat Fibrous Foods

“Foods that have a lot of fiber also help prevent stains,” Dr. Spizuoco says. High fiber foods typically require a lot of chewing, and chewing causes you to make saliva. “Saliva is the natural way to wash your mouth and remove stains, bacteria, and plaque,” she explains. “Also, its pH is neutral, which combats wine’s acidity.” Celery is her top pick because it can also act as a natural floss and clean hard-to-reach places while eating.

7. Use Wine Wipes

A convenient way to instantly remove wine stains is to use wine wipes. The over-the-counter pads usually contain whitening ingredients like baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and calcium. While they are no more effective than brushing, they are certainly more portable. “Brushing your teeth and carrying a toothbrush around is probably not the most ideal when you travel, so a wine wipe is better than nothing,” Dr. Lane admits.

Avoid This DIY Whitening Trick

Theoretically, rubbing a lemon or lime on the teeth is a way to remove stains, but it does far more harm than good. “Although lime or lemon slices may effectively clean your teeth of wine stains, I would never recommend using this technique,” Dr. Lane warns. “The acidity of the juice will destroy the enamel, which will result in worse long term stains.” Instead, Dr. Lane recommends using one of the other methods outlined above, like eating a small piece of cheese or crunchy vegetable, to help cleanse your teeth without interfering with your oral health.

Ultimately, nothing will replace regular professional care. “The best way to prevent stains from red wine or anything else is to have a professional teeth cleaning at least every six months,” Dr. Spizuoco says. “The dental professional can remove any surface stains in a safe and effective way.” If semi-annual cleanings aren’t enough, professional and at-home teeth whitening is always an option to recover a brighter smile.

Cheers to whiter smiles this holiday season!

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SAMANTHA STONEis a contributing writer for AEDIT.

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