Q: Can wine stains on my teeth become permanent over time?—Wesley, Jacksonville, Fla.
A: While there is a chance that red (and white) wine stains may permanently discolor teeth, following your dentist's health recommendations and attending hygiene appointments can prevent Merlot-stained smiles. But experts suggest a few on-the-spot techniques to keep a healthy mouth.
While the color of wine might be the most obvious culprit of stains, acidity also plays a role. According to Phoenix-based clinical dental hygienist Katrina Sanders, acid causes teeth to demineralize, and this heightens the chance of permanent stains to take hold.
"If the teeth are in a state of acid over an extended period of time, we have found that it makes the teeth more porous," Sanders told Wine Spectator. "When that happens, external stains from red wine, coffee, tea, tobacco—anything that stains a white T-shirt—can get embedded in those pores and permanently discolor the teeth."
Sanders tells her patients to brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste after drinking wine, but to wait at least 20 minutes after drinking to do so. This gives the mouth time to rebalance the pH and prevents the toothbrush bristles from scrubbing the acid further into the tooth structure. Other techniques include swishing with water (preferably alkaline) to stabilize pH or chewing sugar-free xylitol gum, which helps kill bacteria in the mouth and brings pH to normal levels.
While wine stains can become permanent, Sanders adds that complex whitening systems and veneers can solve the problem if wine lovers fail to adhere to hygiene tips. "Stay on top of keeping teeth clean," she advises.
Consult your dentist for more information on oral health.—Shawn Zylberberg