Red Wine May Help Prevent Cavities—5 Tips for Reducing Stains

Wednesday Jul 23 | BY |
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Red Wine Teeth

Red wine has antimicrobial properties that can kill plaque-causing bacteria in the mouth.

Want white teeth? Stay away from red wine, they say.

But now, scientists have caused us to question that advice—not because red wine helps keep teeth white, but because it may help keep teeth healthy and cavity-free.

Study Finds Red Wine Kills Mouth Bacteria

You already know that red wine is a good source of antioxidants that help protect heart health. Scientists from Switzerland and Spain were interested in the antimicrobial effects of the wine, however—particularly the polyphenols from the grapes—and how they may be able to fight off potentially dangerous bacteria.

Bacteria in the mouth can be particularly problematic because it forms “biofilms,” or communities of bacteria that are more difficult to kill. It’s these biofilms that go on to form the plaque that damages teeth.

For this study, researchers took samples of bacteria that typically cause cavities and grew them in cultures as biofilms. They then dipped those biofilms for a couple of minutes into the following liquids:

  • Red wine
  • Red wine without the alcohol
  • Red wine spiked with grape seed extract
  • Water
  • 12 percent ethanol

Results showed that the red wine—with or without alcohol—and the wine with grape seed extract were the most effective at getting rid of the bacteria.

Not the Only Study to Show Benefits

This may seem an out-of-the-way study, but there was actually another similar one completed in 2009. Italian researchers investigated the effects of red wine without alcohol on one type of bacteria that cause tooth decay: Streptococcus mutans.

They then looked at how the wine affected how the bacteria attached to saliva-coated beads that were made to resemble teeth. In an actual human mouth, the bacteria stick to the teeth and start to break down the enamel.

Results showed that the de-alcoholized wine made it harder for the bacteria to stick to the beads, and also made it more difficult for the bacteria to gather together to form biofilms. They concluded that regular consumption of red wine may help to prevent tooth decay.

An earlier 2004 study also reported red wine to have potent bacteria-fighting properties. Researchers from the department of food science and technology at Oregon State University tested red and white wines against the following types of bacteria:

  • Escherichia coli O157:H7
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Salmonella Typhimurium
  • Staphylococcus aureus

Results showed the red wine was a more potent bacteria-killer than white.

Greek researchers found similar results in a study published in 2005, when they assessed the antimicrobial activity of wine extracts. They tested alcohol-free red and white wine extracts against several types of bacteria, and found that the higher the “phenolic content” in the extract (the number of polyphenols or natural plant compounds), the more effective it was against the bacteria.

In this study, researchers noted that as more and more “superbugs” are created that are resistant to regular antibiotics, we may need efficient natural antimicrobials like those in red wine that have fewer side effects on human health.

No Red-Wine-Flavored Toothpaste Yet

How much the study will benefit oral health remains to be seen. Most people don’t want to consume more red wine to prevent cavities because it tends to stain on teeth.

At least we can feel that we’re doing something good for our teeth at the same time that we’re staining them. (For some stain-reducing ideas, see below.) But more likely, the study results will work to spur more research that may eventually result in oral care products that contain the powerful polyphenols in red wine without the staining properties.

Tips to Keep Teeth White When Drinking Wine

  1. Always eat something. Eating food at the same time you’re sipping can keep the wine from staying on the teeth. Hard cheese provides a healthy film on teeth that prevents discoloration. High-fiber foods, like raw veggies (cauliflower, broccoli, celery) are also a good choice, as they act as a natural scrub.
  2. Rinse with water soon after drinking. Wait to brush as wine has acids in it—brushing immediately afterwards can damage weakened enamel.
  3. Brush before drinking—about an hour before. This will remove any bacteria or plaque already on your teeth, which can give the wine a place to rest and stain. Clean teeth are less likely to stain.
  4. Wipe the stains away. There are actually products on the market you can use to wipe the tannins off your teeth after drinking. Try Wine Wipes.
  5. Have some sparkling water. Sipping this between glasses of red wine helps wash away the stain-causing materials before they can set on your teeth.

What do you think of this study? Will it change your wine-drinking habits?

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Irene Munoz-Gonzalez, et al., “Red Wine and Oenological Extracts Display Antimicrobial Effects in an Oral Bacteria Biofilm Model,” J. Agric. Food Chem., 2014; 62(20):4731-4737,

“Red wine and tooth decay,”, December 3, 2009,

“Red wine has anti-bacteria impact, new study,”, November 16, 2004,

Chrissanthy Papadopoulou, et al., “Potential Antimicrobial Activity of Red and White Wine Phenolic Extracts against Strains of Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Candida albicans,” Food Technol. Biotechnol. 2005; 43(1): 41-46.

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story, a northwest-based writer, editor, and ghostwriter, has been creating non-fiction materials for individuals, corporations, and commercial magazines for over 17 years. She specializes in the health and wellness field, where she writes and ghostwrites books, e-books, blogs, magazine articles, and more.

Colleen is the founder of Writing and Wellness. Her fantasy novel, “Rise of the Sidenah,” was released with Jupiter Gardens Press in September 2015. Her literary novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” is forthcoming in spring 2016 from Dzanc Books. She lives in Idaho.

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