Here’s a problem you may have had: You are out for dinner at Hook & Ladder Coffees and Wine Co. in Downtown Wichita Falls, and you just finished off a glass of red wine. You start to smile–the wine was good, and you’re feeling happy with the choice. The wine list is part of why you came here. Then you see their eyes dart down to your teeth, a flicker of disappointment crossing their eyes. Either there’s a bit of spinach stuck in your teeth, or your teeth were stained an off-purple by that wine you just drank. While it’s known that drinks like coffee and wine can stain teeth, they don’t usually have such a fast effect.
It’s happened to everyone. No matter what preparations we take or how we try to mitigate the effects, red wine is one of the worst offenders for staining your teeth. Just like the white tablecloth, the carpet, your fingers, or your nicest shirt, your teeth are susceptible to the chemicals that make wine stains particularly visible.
But why does wine stain? And what can we do about it?
What Makes Red Wine Stain Teeth?
Part of the fun of drinking red wine is its vibrant color. This color, in part, is a result of a combination of biological chemicals called ‘chromogens,’ which result from the oxidation of naturally occurring pigments already present in crushed grapes. Fun fact: chromogens are the chemical compounds that are most easily converted to dyes!
When you combine the chromogens in wine with its other stand-out chemical compounds, you’ve got a recipe for nigh-uncleanable stains. Tannins, the chemical compounds that produce the astringent feel and bitterness of wine, combined with the high acidity of the wine itself, combine to create the perfect compound to make your teeth purple.
Our teeth, though they may seem smooth, are actually covered in minuscule imperfections, much like a porcelain cup. And when we drink wine, the acid weakens the enamel and widens these imperfections, the tannins bind with the minerals of our teeth, and the chromogens stick to the tannins– a dastardly combination for unsightly stains causing wine teeth. When your enamel wears away, you’re also more likely to experience sensitive teeth that hurt.
Wine not only stains teeth, but it can highlight the presence of plaque and tartar. Plaque is a soft material, almost like yogurt. It can readily absorb chromogens from wine to turn purple. Plaque also absorbs minerals from your saliva and becomes tartar, which is similar to rocks on your teeth. The tartar itself can trap stains. It’s rougher and more porous than your teeth, so it often turns dark, creating discolored patches at the gumline or other places where you don’t clean off the plaque as well.
How to Treat Wine Stained Teeth Yourself
So what can we do about our now-stained teeth? Well, for one, a product exists for this exact purpose. So-called ‘Wine Wipes’ are designed to remove the stains that wine leaves behind without changing the taste of any wine you may drink later on. That means you can use it to keep your teeth white between sampling the Desperado Red and the Wichita Red at Horseshoe Bend Cellars. Looking at the ingredients, the Wine Wipes are nothing more complicated than baking soda with a few other simple chemicals.
If you don’t feel like spending money on specifically designed products, then think about eating a protein like cheese with your wine, which–when breaking down–will create a chemical barrier for your teeth. That’s part of the reason why cheese is such a popular pairing with wine. Likewise, promoting saliva production in your mouth (say, with gum) will neutralize the pH of the wine you’ve consumed, helping to protect your teeth before stains can take hold. Though gum isn’t as good a solution while you’re still tasting.
If you’ve noticed that your teeth are already a bit off-color, don’t worry. Toothpaste with micro-abrasive components such as sodium bicarbonate or hydrated silica will help gently remove any organic build-up. You want to be careful: some toothpaste is too abrasive and can damage your enamel. This includes most toothpaste labeled “whitening” or “tartar control.” And make sure to wait 30 minutes after drinking wine to brush your teeth because the acid in wine (and other acidic food and beverages) temporarily weakens your enamel. Brushing immediately after drinking wine can do more harm than good!
Whiten Stained Teeth in Wichita Falls, TX
These techniques can combat minor wine-stained teeth, but if your teeth are already stained, we have a solution: teeth whitening. Teeth whitening can remove surface stains caused by foods and beverages like wine. More deeply discolored teeth may need a treatment like porcelain veneers.
You can also head off future stains by making your regular check-ups and professional cleanings every six months.
One thing our patients ask us is can you drink wine after wisdom teeth removal? The answer is no. Red wine is still alcohol and any alcohol consumption is not recommended while your gums heal from extraction.