If you enjoy kicking back with a red wine, here’s another reason to pour yourself a glass. According to a recent study, the antioxidants found in red wine known as polyphenols can protect teeth by ridding the mouth of harmful bacteria that cause gum disease and cavities.
How Wine Helps Fight Cavities
When it comes to the best and worst foods for your teeth, red wine sometimes gets a bad reputation due to tooth staining. But red wine may actually protect the integrity of your teeth.
A 2018 published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry compared the effects of two polyphenols in red wine against grapeseed and red wine extract supplements on harmful oral bacteria. (1) This type of bacteria sticks to gums and teeth, leading to issues like cavities, gum disease and plaque.
While all three substances — the red wine, grapeseed and extracts — positively affected bacteria, it was the compounds in red wine that was most effective at eradicating bacteria that like to linger on teeth and gums.
Even more surprising is that when the polyphenols present in red wine were combined with an oral probiotic that encourages the growth of “good” bacteria, Streptococcus dentisani, polyphenols performed even better at halting the bad oral bacteria. It’s unclear why, but it may be that the polyphenols produce molecules that keep the bacteria from hanging around.
This isn’t the first time scientists demonstrated red wine’s ability to protect against cavities and tooth decay. A 2014 study found that out of several liquids, red wine, whether it contained alcohol or not, was the most effective at getting rid of decay-causing bacteria. (2)
Wine-Gum on the Horizon?
Right now, it’s still unclear what this discovery might mean for oral health. For starters, the study was an in-vitro model, meaning actual living humans weren’t the test subjects. However, it could lead to polyphenol-infused products like chewing gum, mouthwash and toothpaste for extra protection against bacteria.
How Wine Helps Fight Cavities: A Word of Caution
While red wine very well may protect your mouth against bacteria, it can also come with unexpected side effects. Drinking alcohol increases a woman’s risk of certain types of breast cancer and the risk of recurrence. (3, 4)
If you’re trying to lose or maintain weight, you may find that drinking alcohol is working against you. A small glass — 120 millimeters — of red wine, for instance, is about 94 calories. (5) Enjoying a few of those throughout the week can add up on the scale.
And if you’re trying to keep those pearly whites looking, well, pearly, red wine could get in the way of that. The acid and tannins found in red wine can erode tooth enamel and allow the red pigments that give wine its color to latch onto teeth. (6) If you do enjoy that occasional glass of red wine, it’s a good idea to wait 30 minutes and then brush your teeth — but not too vigorously, or you risk brushing away enamel.
List of Ways to Protect Against Cavities without Wine
But what if you want to protect your teeth against bacteria and cavities while steering clear of red wine altogether? Here are some easy, alcohol-free ways:
Cut back on sugar. Sugar feeds that nasty bacteria you don’t want in your mouth and decalcifies your teeth. Say goodbye to candy, soda and all those sugar-laden processed foods.
Chow down on nutrient-rich foods. Eating raw dairy, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats will help you maintain healthy teeth. All those vitamins and minerals help prevent tooth decay and keep an optimal dental fluid flow going.
Try oil pulling. Coconut oil pulling eliminates the toxins from your mouth and leaves you with an antiseptic environment. Just swish coconut oil in your mouth for 10 to 20 minutes, then spit it out in the trash can. Then rinse and brush your teeth as usual. I try to do this three to five times a week.
Final Thoughts on How Wine Helps Fight Cavities
- The polyphenols, or antioxidants, found in red wine can help prevent bad bacteria from taking residence in your mouth.
- This discovery could lead to fortified mouthwash, toothpaste and chewing gum.
- Fruits and veggies are also loaded with polyphenols that can help keep your mouth healthy.
- While red wine appears to be powerful at protecting against cavities and bacteria, it’s not necessarily the optimal choice. Alcohol can increase the risk of breast cancer and lead to weight gain while also discoloring teeth.
- A diet low in sugar, high in fruits, veggies and raw dairy and oil pulling are all ways to counteract cavities without alcohol.
Read Next: 6 Natural Ways to Whiten Your Teeth