Your Wine and Your Teeth

Your favorite vino can hurt tooth enamel; how much and what can you do to minimize damage?

Dentists have long lamented the habits of their wine-loving patients. It was in 1907 that W.D. Miller, a pioneering dentist and scientist, first suggested that drinking wine might lead to tooth erosion. Since then, several studies have bolstered anecdotal evidence that alcohol in general, and wine specifically, can dissolve tooth enamel. The most recent of these studies examines the dental implications of acute alcohol consumption—that is, alcohol consumed on a single occasion—and explores the differences among wine, beer and whisky.

A wine’s acidity is the leading suspect in damage to enamel. Composed mainly of a basic salt called hydroxyapatite, enamel begins to dissolve when acidity lowers the pH in your mouth below a critical point, somewhere between 5 and 5.7. Meanwhile, wine’s malic, tartaric, lactic, succinic and citric acids usually contribute to a pH of between 2.9 and 3.5.

But how do wine’s effects on teeth compare to those of other acidic beverages, especially other acidic alcohols? That was the question taken up by researchers from Griffith University in Australia and three Indian dental schools for a study recently published in Oral Health and Dental Management. For their investigation, the team collected saliva samples from subjects before and after alcohol consumption. One-third each of the study’s subjects consumed wine, beer and whisky, respectively, in volumes proportionate to their body weights. (Sample size was small in this pilot study—36 subjects, all healthy men between 25 and 30 years of age.)

more on