Do you ever get the feeling someone is staring at your teeth while you are talking? Was it the spanakopita appetizer? Nope. You are spinach-free. They are staring at that distinctly purple hue we like to call “wine teeth”.
There are a few important factors in this embarrassing staining that cause it to affect different people in different ways. Not everyone has the same staining from drinking red wine.
Exploring these contributing factors will help you understand why your teeth may stain more than someone else’s teeth do. It will also give you some clues as to how to prevent the telltale burgundy tinge to your pearly whites.
Plaque is the soft buildup that accumulates on your teeth between brushings. It consists of food particles, bacteria and sloughed-off tissue cells from the inner lining of your mouth. Because it is soft, you can easily remove it by brushing and flossing your teeth.
Plaque is not glossy smooth. It is rough and bumpy, which allows it to attract and pick up stains very easily. Plaque will stain quickly from red wine.
Because some people have more plaque buildup on their teeth than others do, this puts them at a higher risk for wine teeth!
Not all enamel is alike. Some people have enamel that is shiny and glassy smooth, while others have a microscopically ridged or textured surface to their enamel. The smoother your enamel, the easier it is to resist staining. Rough, bumpy enamel leaves more nooks and crannies for the stain to collect.
Some enamel just has a naturally rougher texture. However, in many cases, enamel is rough because of damage sustained over time. One of the biggest enemies of enamel is acid. We can cause erosion of enamel, leaving a rougher surface, when we consistently drink acidic beverages or suffer from untreated acid reflux and GERD.
So the reason your teeth are more purple than your friends’ teeth when drinking the same red wine might be that their enamel is smoother. . . or they might have glazed porcelain veneers, which resist stain like a piece of glass does!
Type of Wine
Not all red wine is alike, either. Some wines are more acidic and contain more tannins. These will cause more staining. It is safe to say that the darker the wine looks, the more likely it is to stain your teeth.
To choose a less-likely-to-stain red wine, ask for one with a lighter body or less tannins. Obviously, you could also stick to white wine or champagne. The problem with these is that they are actually more acidic than most reds. They can etch (damage) the enamel as much as red wine. They just do not have the dark stain to go with them.
How to Stop “Wine Teeth”
There are a few things you can do to stop the wine teeth phenomenon in its tracks, and our experienced cosmetic dentists are here to help. Follow these steps to keep your smile bright throughout your longest holiday parties.
- Get rid of plaque! Since plaque picks up stain, get rid of any plaque before you start drinking red wine. There are two very important steps to fighting plaque:
- Your home oral hygiene routine – Make sure you are cleaning the plaque off your teeth every single day with good brushing and flossing habits. When you know you’re going to a party with red wine flowing, brush and floss immediately before the party. Start the night plaque-free, and less stain will develop.
- Professional teeth cleanings – There are always areas of plaque accumulation that people cannot see or reach. Having professional teeth cleanings on a consistent basis will reduce your overall plaque buildup. Not only does this lower the amount of plaque-y surfaces on which wine stain can collect; your hygienist also finishes the cleaning with a polishing paste. This final polishing step leaves the tooth enamel smoother and glossier, and therefore, more resistant to stain.
- Protect your enamel – Because rough or textured enamel picks up more stain, polishing and strengthening it makes it more resistant to stain. How can you smooth your enamel? As we already mentioned above, a professional teeth cleaning includes a polishing paste that leaves a smooth, glossy texture to the enamel. Here are a few more ways you can keep your teeth shiny and smooth:
- Use a whitening (polishing) toothpaste with an electric toothbrush. Whitening toothpastes contain tiny polishing particles that work like gentle sandpaper to polish away surface staining and roughness. The electric toothbrush makes whitening toothpaste more effective. Make sure you use one that contains the American Dental Association’s Seal of Approval so you know it is safe for your enamel.
- Treat any prior acid damage. Acid etches tooth enamel, leaving a rough or pitted surface. This type of surface is very susceptible to picking up stains. There are several products available that strengthen the enamel and make it more resistant to acid damage. Look for these two ingredients: Fluoride and Nanohydroxyapatite. Both are proven to remineralize (harden) and strengthen enamel, fighting damage from acids. (And both are present in our CariFree products!)
- Stop drinking other acidic drinks, especially between meals. Give up your sodas, sports drinks, sparkling water, and energy drinks. These are all very acidic and etch the teeth. Avoiding these will help preserve your enamel.
- See your medical doctor to treat acid reflux or GERD. Even if you never drink an acidic beverage in your life, you can still experience acid erosion of your enamel as a result of stomach acid. Acid reflux and GERD bring extremely acidic stomach acid up into the oral cavity. When this happens consistently, the teeth suffer. Take care of this medical problem in order to protect your teeth.
- After a glass of red, swish or rinse with plain water. Gentle swishing can flush away dark stains that gather on your front teeth. Water also helps neutralize the acid of the wine, thus protecting your enamel.
- Clean away wine stain periodically throughout the night. You can accomplish this with these handy little Wine Wipes, or you can use a damp paper towel. Whatever you use, make sure it is VERY soft and damp. Do not use any abrasive material or scrub hard. That only presses the acid into the enamel, risking more erosion or damage!
- Do NOT go brush your teeth immediately! You never want to scrub acidic drinks into your enamel. Make sure you have rinsed your mouth first to bring the pH back to neutral and flush away any remaining acid. Then you can brush.
- Do not follow white wine or champagne with red wine. The higher acid content of white wine and champagne leave the enamel more susceptible to staining. Just pick one color and stick with it.
More Questions about How to Avoid “Wine Teeth”?
Call today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Ann and Dr. Lauren. They can answer all of your questions about “wine teeth” and anything else teeth-wise.