Is it OK to brush my teeth before tasting wine? Does toothpaste change the way wine tastes?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Is it OK to brush my teeth before wine tasting? Does toothpaste change the way wine tastes?

—Hope, Vereeniging, South Africa

Dear Hope,

Toothpaste can really wreck a wine-tasting experience if you’re not careful. Toothpastes are typically strongly flavored to cover the mix of fluoride, abrasives and detergents. That strong toothpaste flavor can really clash with wine, making it seem overly astringent.

Toothpaste’s surfactants (like sodium laurel sulfate, or other products that allow toothpaste to foam as you brush) are particularly problematic, because they can cover and dull your taste buds, affecting their permeability to wine, at least temporarily. That said, your saliva should dilute any leftover surfactants within an hour or so.

What to do? There are surfactant-free and fluoride-free toothpaste choices out there, if you want to shop around for alternatives (check with your dentist to make sure they’re right for you). Make sure you’re doing a good job of rinsing out whatever toothpaste you’re using with plenty of water, to remove any last bit of minty freshness. Speaking of mint, the mint flavors tend to linger the longest, so perhaps your next tube can be something in a different flavor? I’m a fluoride-free cinnamon toothpaste wine-advice columnist myself.

Avoid toothbrushing, mouthwashes, mints and gum before wine tasting—at least an hour ahead of time. Even so, you might want to chew on a cracker or piece of bread before your first swig of wine, and swish a bunch of water in your mouth to make sure all the leftover toothpaste is gone. I sometimes also swish a bit of wine in my mouth and spit it out before enjoying my first sip.

You also don’t want to brush your teeth immediately after tasting wine, either, as that can exacerbate acid damage. Check out our complete guide to wine and teeth health for more info!

—Dr. Vinny

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