It has been known for some time that the acidity of wine can potentially erode tooth enamel in a similar way to sodas that are also very acidic. Is wine worse for teeth than other alcoholic beverages such as beer and spirits? This article provides the answers.
The acidity of the wine is the major culprit. Tooth enamel starts to dissolve when the acidity in your mouth falls below a pH threshold of 5 and 5.7. Neutral pH is 7.0, and anything below this is acidic.
Wine contains many natural acids, some of which are metabolic by products such as lactic, succinic and malic acids.
Other acids originate from the grapes themselves such as tartaric and citric acids. Some acids can originate from the barrels and maturing processes.
Many wines you buy in the shops are quite acid with pH levels between 2.9 and 3.5. Many sodas have a pH or around 3.4, coffee has a pH of 5, fruit juices 3-4, and black tea about 5.
So wine has the lowest pH of many common beverages.
A recent research study compared the acidity of saliva samples of people who consumed beer, wine and whiskey. Calcium and inorganic phosphate levels in the saliva samples were also measured. These substances are released from enamel when it is dissolved by acids.
The conclusions from the study were:
► All three alcoholic beverages lower the PH of the saliva
► Beer caused the lowest pH, followed by whiskey then wine
► Whiskey caused the highest rise in Calcium levels indicating a higher level of enamel erosion, than was indicated by the acidity.
► Beer showed the lowest spike in Calcium and Phosphorus level, despite having the highest acidity. This indicated that acidity may only be one aspect of alcoholic beverages that lead to erosion of enamel. The erosive potential of these drinks is therefore not solely dependent on pH.
► The acidity of the saliva also depended on how quickly the drinks were consumed and how long they stay in the mouth. Wine tasters, who swirl and swish the wine around in their mouths before swallowing or spitting (during wine tasting), face greater risks of dental damage.
► The longer time wine drivers keep the wine in their mouths, and the more they swish it around the greater is the exposure to the acid in wine.
► To minimize the risk, the researchers recommend drinking some water or milk to flush the mouth of the acid.
► When tasting large samples of wine the researchers recommended that people rinse their mouth regularly with water. But tasters should not clean their teeth immediately after tasting, but wait an hour or so. The wine may have softened the teeth and increased the risk that bushing may add to the damage.
► Never go to bed with wine-coated teeth.
► Carbonated soft drinks are more likely to be a major problem than wine because of the larger volume consumed and more widespread consumption.