Can Happy Hour Hurt Your Teeth?

Please, tell us it’s not true. We all know that drinking red wine can stain your teeth over time, but are there other downsides to a relaxing glass of wine after work?

Unfortunately, yes. Discoloration isn’t the only downside to drinking wine: The acid in the drink can also eat away at your tooth enamel, leaving you at risk for cavities, sensitivity, and pain. And it doesn’t take long for the damage to occur either. In a 2015 study published in an Australian Dental Journal, researchers studied dental erosion commonly seen in professional wine tasters. The study found that just 10 one-minute wine tasting sessions can significantly soften the teeth’s enamel. So whether you’re a taster, a sipper, or a gulper, all it takes is a few minutes of repeated exposure to cause harm.

If you’re more of a gulper than a sipper, you should also be aware that alcohol causes dehydration and dry mouth. People who drink excessively may find their saliva flow is reduced over time, which can lead to tooth decay and other oral infections such as gum disease.

Fortunately, there are a few things that you can do to minimize the negative impact of wine on your teeth. To protect them, order water alongside your wine. When you finish a glass of wine, swish with the water to rinse away any acids that may be clinging to your teeth. (Stick with plain old flat water. Some sparkling waters are also acidic, which will just make matters worse).

Another tip: munch on some cheese between sips. Cheese is alkaline, so it can neutralize the acids in wine somewhat, preventing them from eating away at your enamel as quickly.

You may think brushing your teeth right after drinking wine is an easy solution, but don’t do it. You should always avoid brushing right after consuming anything acidic, as it will just work the acid deeper into your teeth, accelerating the damage. Wait at least half an hour before brushing or flossing, just to be safe.

Finally, if you’re REALLY worried about the state of your teeth, consider asking your dentist for a prescription fluoride toothpaste or rinse. They may help re-harden weakened enamel and ward off future damage.

For a little more detail about how your choice of wine can matter, read this article at VinePair.