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Red, Red Wine Stains

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: May 12, 2006 12:23pm ET

Tasting wine for a living -- or at least part of it -- sounds like a ton of fun. But it’s also a lot of work.

For all those glorious days when the wines sing and dance, there are often long stretches of dull, dreary, soulless wines. I have the ratings and numbers to prove it.

Tasting thousands of wines each year takes its toll in many ways.

Tasting makes you hungry.

Tasting requires serious concentration and is a brain drain.

Then there’s the matter of stained teeth. This subject came up twice recently with readers who attended our Grand Tour tastings in New York and Las Vegas.

First, never brush your teeth right before tasting. If you do brush, and don’t rinse thoroughly, even the tiniest amount of toothpaste on your palate or gums or between your teeth will affect your taste buds.

So make sure you brush well in advance of tasting. Most professionals taste early in the day, when their palate and mind are the freshest and sharpest. By evening, your palate has likely been assaulted by all kinds of flavors, and your mind is likely decompressing.

Second, never brush right after you taste. It’s best to give your purple-stained teeth a rest.

This isn’t just my armchair advice. I’ve discussed this with my dentist on several occasions, since many of her patients are winemakers here in Napa Valley. There are hazards involved: Red wine stains are hard to get rid of, and drinking high-acidity wines holds long-term perils for the health of your teeth.

Wine stains and acidity are really only an issue for people who have wine in their mouths for much of the time, my dentist, Rolinda Harsany, said. That would include those who tasted scores of wines at the Grand Tour -- and left with red-toothed smiles.

Too much acidity can break down the tooth’s enamel over time; that makes teeth more sensitive and porous, because the dentin is less insulated, Harsany explained.

“These high-risk individuals can lessen their risk by swishing with water frequently during tastings. It is also beneficial to wait for a while, maybe an hour after tasting, before brushing,” she said. “There are also over-the-counter fluoride rinses, such as Act, which will help. It is best to use these right before bed.” She also recommends using an electric brush, such as Sonicare.

After I taste, I rinse with water and chew gum, which helps the saliva work on the stains. Twice a year, I use bleaching trays to keep my teeth white.

I know we have some dentists in the audience, and many of you no doubt have your tricks to combat purple-teeth syndrome.

Care to share your secrets?

Maryann Worobiec
Napa, CA —  May 12, 2006 2:14pm ET
I agree entirely, Jim! And thank you for getting me hooked on chewing gum right after a tasting. I find it helps my mouth get back to "normal" much quicker. And the fact that I'm chewing whitening gum can't hurt.I've also been experiementing with two other products, both of them versions of hydrogen peroxide. The first is a pre-brush whitening mouthwash. The second is a line of ampules that have a minty gel. They're handy for public outings.
Tom Breneman
eau claire, WI —  May 12, 2006 5:05pm ET
Your dentist is right on with her recommendations, but let's not be too concerned. There are also studys recently that link red wine consumption to decreasing the incidence of periodontal (gum) disease.. We are looking at providing a Swish, and Swallow Shiraz at our office.:-) Might be a way for me to write off my wine "hobby"? www.HillsideDental.com
Randy Baker
IL —  May 13, 2006 5:58pm ET
I own a small restaurant and fine wine store and also have been known to sport purple teeth. One of my managers suggested rinsing my mouth with soda water. It worked wonderfully! Give it a try!

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