In San Jose, we know that it was the Santa Clara Valley that was the real foundation of the California wine industry, and it remains the home of some of the best wineries in the world.

So we perk up our ears whenever we hear that there’s new research about the benefits of wine.

This new research sounds exciting: red wine is good for your teeth, headlines proclaim. It would certainly be good news if it were true, but there are some necessary caveats here.

Is Red Wine Good for Teeth?

The Good News

The new study definitely has some good news for people who enjoy their red wine. It looks at how well different compounds inhibit the ability of oral bacteria to adhere to gum tissue. This could give red wine a preventive effect on gum disease, reducing the risk of people who drink red wine regularly.

Damaging oral bacteria must stick themselves to your teeth or gums in order to survive in the mouth. This is the first step in forming dental plaque, followed by the growth of new bacteria and the production of a protective sheath over the bacteria. Stopping oral bacteria from adhering to teeth and gums prevents the formation of plaque.

Wine polyphenols have previously been identified for their ability to achieve this effect, but researchers wanted to see how well two specific polyphenols worked in comparison with both grape and red wine polyphenol extracts. They set up a model of human gum tissue and compared the different compounds, finding that the two specific polyphenols found in wine were more effective than either of the extracts.

They also found that the effectiveness of the wine polyphenols increased in the presence of Streptococcus dentisani, considered to be a probiotic. The polyphenols worked with the probiotic to make it even harder for gum disease bacteria to stick.

So, it seems that red wine could help control gum disease, especially in a mouth with a healthy microbiome.

The Bad News

However, we’re a long way from declaring that red wine is actually good for teeth. In fact, there are many reasons why red wine is still bad for your teeth.

The most obvious is that red wine is really dark in color, and can stain your teeth. If you’re a fan of red wine, you know that teeth whitening is a necessary adjunct to your wine habit.

The staining of red wine is made worse by the fact that wine is highly acidic. In general, red wines are a little less acidic than white wines, but both are acidic enough to cause significant tooth damage. The acid eats away at the enamel, and lost dental enamel is irreplaceable.

And then there’s the question of alcohol. Alcohol dries your mouth and leads to systemic dehydration. This can impair production of saliva (a natural antibiotic), and make your mouth more acidic, damaging teeth and causing bacteria to thrive.

Protect Your Teeth from Wine Damage

If you’re a lover of red wine, there’s no reason to stop because of your teeth, and the new information certainly puts a little more shine on the habit. But you want to try to minimize the damage from wine.

The best way to to do this is to drink in moderation. Too much wine increases the risk of acidic damage and dehydration.

When you do drink red wine, make sure to chase each glass with water to remove as much wine from teeth, neutralize the acid, and hydrate your body. It’s also a great way to clear your palate so you can enjoy another glass.

You can use tools like wine straws to reduce contact between wine and your teeth, too.

And, of course, make regular dental visits to check your teeth for damage related to red wine and other habits. Taking a holistic dentistry approach can help you utilize the best habits to improve your oral health.  If you are looking for a dentist in the San Jose area, please call (408) 354-5600 today for an appointment with Dr. Nancy Nehawandian at Top Down Dental in Los Gatos.