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Is wine good for your teeth?

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks
woman drinking red wine

21st February 2018 – The possible heart health benefits of drinking wine in moderation are often reported, and now Spanish researchers say it could also be good for your teeth and gums.

They suggest polyphenols, naturally occurring plant chemicals found in wine, may inhibit the bacteria that cause gum disease and cavities.

However, the British Dental Association (BDA) warns that the acidic nature of wine can damage the enamel of your teeth.

General health

Alcohol has few nutrients, no vitamins or minerals, and is high in calories.

But studies have suggested the polyphenol antioxidants found in wine, particularly red wine, may support heart health.

Oral health

Traditionally, antioxidants found in polyphenols are thought to protect the body from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals.

Recent work has indicated that polyphenols might also promote health by interacting with bacteria in the guts of healthy people.

It was this suggestion that led the researchers in Spain to investigate whether wine polyphenols would also protect teeth and gums, because before food reaches the gut, the chemical breakdown begins in the mouth.

Laboratory study

The researchers worked with cells that model gum tissue to see the effect two red wine polyphenols, along with grape seed and red wine extracts, had on the type of bacteria that stick to our teeth and gums, and cause plaque, cavities, and gum disease.

They discovered that the wine polyphenols were generally better than the wine extracts at reducing the bacteria's ability to stick to the cells.

When combined with Streptococcus dentisani, which is thought to be an oral probiotic, the polyphenols were even better at fending off the bacteria.

The findings have been published in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.


The BDA's scientific adviser, Professor Damien Walmsley, comments in an emailed statement: "The study raises interesting issues about the potential benefits of polyphenols in red wine, however, for those who enjoy this tipple it doesn’t offer a green light to drink more.

"In fact, the acidic nature of wine – it has a low pH – means that consuming a lot of these drinks will damage the enamel of the teeth.

"Therefore, until the benefits of this research are shown clinically, it is best to consume wine in moderation and with a meal to minimise the risk of tooth erosion."

Reviewed on February 21, 2018

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