Q: Does wine cause cavities?—Michelle, Jacksonville, Fla.
A: Cavities, also referred to as severe tooth decay, form when tooth structure begins to collapse. Because wine is acidic, with pH levels between 3 and 3.7, it risks bringing the pH level in your mouth into the acidic range—below 5.7—a threshold where cavity-inducing bacteria thrive. Although wine's acidic properties can be conducive to cavity development, dental experts suggest some ways to mitigate the risk.
"Pairing wine with something that raises the intraoral pH, like cheese, balances out that intraoral acidity, and you prevent dipping below that 5.7 number," University of Alabama periodontist Dr. Maria Geisinger told Wine Spectator. Wine by itself, or in combination with foods high in sugar, raises the risk for tooth decay, Dr. Geisinger says, and she encourages wine lovers to become cheese lovers as well, for its cavity-resistant properties.
Recent studies have shown the beneficial effects of certain wine components on oral health. Dr. Geisinger mentions recent in vitro studies that show wine polyphenols may decrease bacterial adhesion in gum cells and could reduce the presence of bacteria in a low-acid environment, but in vivo studies have yet to confirm the results. According to Dr. Geisinger, wine lovers should maintain good oral hygiene and make regular visits to a dental professional in order to stay cavity-free.