The Skinny on Wine and Tooth Stain or Discoloration

My friend Dale, owner of Savvy Sleepers, a luxury satin pillowcase company, asked me to answer a couple of questions for her about wine and tooth staining in preparation for her “Wine Country” theme last month on her “Slumber Party” blog, a beauty and health tip resource that should not be missed. You can see my responses below,  check out the links to her sites and of course, the link to the specific blog post! 

1. When drinking red wine while wine tasting, should you brush your teeth right afterward or swish water to help prevent staining?

I would recommend swishing with water to help buffer the mouth after sampling or drinking your wine and, believe it or not, AVOID brushing at all costs. The wine not only can stain your teeth, but it is acidic, and if you take an abrasive like a toothbrush and toothpaste (even a soft one) to the teeth after the teeth have been exposed to an acidic agent, you can erode your teeth much more easily. Your teeth are softer after being exposed to acid because the pH in your mouth is lowered, which makes the teeth much more susceptible to erosion and abrasion – and once that happens, we can’t reverse it. Stains we can handle, and we can work to reverse those!


2. What remedies are there for bad red wine stains?

Avoidance is always the best method but it is not always realistic. We all love our wine! So in the dental office, during your biannual cleanings, the ultrasonic scaler called a Cavitron can used, which is the best because it will vibrate the stains off. We can go back after using it and smooth the areas, and then polish the teeth. It is a painless procedure, but it emits a lot of water!


When you’re at home, bleaching trays can be used with a strong tooth-bleaching agent. The ones that are found over the counter are very mild but do the job with consistency and compliance, and the ones used in the dental office are much more potent and yield greater results. Patients are concerned about sensitivity. I see more about tooth grinding making teeth hypersensitive than from the bleaching process itself, and I know this from firsthand experience. If the grinding habit is addressed, patients can whiten until they are very contented with the results.


An electric toothbrush is also great for effectively cleaning the teeth and eliminating stains. They essentially do the work for you, and frankly, they do it better than our best scrubbing efforts!


3. Can white wine or champagne stain teeth, or are those safe?

There is much less stain with these two beverages! Again, though, the acid can make your teeth softer, so don’t brush right afterward and do rinse with water to help elevate the pH of the mouth again.


4. What’s worse for staining teeth, red wine or coffee?

Both stain teeth, but I have seen them stain teeth differently. In my experience, red wine will have a general darkening effect throughout the mouth that discolors teeth, but coffee likes to stain specific areas of the teeth. This happens mainly in areas susceptible to dental crowding or tooth overlap, also by the gum line and in the little nooks and crannies that develop in our teeth with time. The tannins in tea are the most potent offenders in regard to stain, and they stain teeth similarly to coffee!


In all honesty, you want to be able to enjoy your beverages and have your teeth healthy and white at the same time, so do not stress – color can be changed. Have your wine, your tea, your coffee and even the other items that can stain teeth, such as blueberries and raspberries. Just remember to see your dentist every 6 months to have your teeth professionally cleaned, and consider investing in custom bleaching trays to touch up your teeth as needed. The best time to whiten is following a cleaning. If you are really looking for a bright white smile, and fast, in-office bleaching is an option; in one hour you can go 2 or 3 shades lighter!


All of this a dental professional can do for you once you establish a relationship; however, we NEED healthy teeth or we don’t have a tooth to whiten. The acidic nature of the staining agents we discussed can really create havoc with your teeth via enamel loss and erosion, so please remember to always buffer your mouth with water to re-raise the pH of the mouth, and always wait at least 30 minutes after eating or drinking anything other than water before brushing your teeth as they are softer and more susceptible to damage. Always use a soft toothbrush, never medium or hard, and we highly recommend electric toothbrushes. They do an incredible job of effectively cleaning the teeth and helping to eliminate stain. If you do use an electric toothbrush, use it no more than twice a day, because it is a powerful tool. If you need a third or fourth touch-up, use a regular, manual, soft toothbrush for your in-between brushing. 


I’d be happy to evaluate you, your teeth, and your level of stain or tooth discoloration, and make the best recommendation as to how we can help you make your teeth healthy and white at Katy Trail Dental. Mention this article and we are happy to offer you complimentary bleaching trays and two weeks’ worth of bleach with your new patient exam and cleaning! (Score!)