That moment when you lean over to your friend in the middle of a lunch – ahem, dinner – date and, before rushing back to work – erm, home – you ask them, “Are my teeth purple?” We’ve all been there. Now, we might even have an excuse, as new research suggests wine-stained purple teeth could mean healthy teeth.
The chemicals found in red wine could help prevent tooth decay and gum disease, according to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Boozers have long touted the medicinal benefits of red wine. Dubbed the “French Paradox,” researchers have found polyphenols, the micronutrients and antioxidants in wine, help prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as play a role in metabolism.
To find out how wine might affect oral health, scientists compared how polyphenols stopped bacteria known to cause dental plaque, cavities, and gum disease from sticking to teeth. They found polyphenols in wine reduced a bacteria’s ability to stick to a tooth's enamel. When combined with the oral probiotic Streptococcus dentisani, known to stimulate the growth of good bacteria, they found polyphenols did an even better job.
Researchers say the findings could lead to new dental treatments, but don’t go rushing to the nearest liquor store just yet.
The researchers also say the study was limited because it wasn’t actually done on teeth, but rather on cells outside of the human body that mimicked gum tissue. They also acknowledge that small molecules (metabolites) that form when the body begins digesting polyphenols could be responsible.
As much fun as it is to “drink” your health, polyphenols naturally occur in a variety of foods too, including fruits like cherries, pears, and berries as well as cereals, dry legumes, and chocolates. In fact, a cup of tea or coffee contains the same number of polyphenols as a glass of wine – and they could be a healthier alternative.
"[T]he acidic nature of wine means that consuming a lot of these drinks will damage the enamel of the teeth," professor Damien Walmsley, the British Dental Association's scientific adviser, told the BBC. "[U]ntil the benefits of this research are shown clinically, it is best to consume wine in moderation and with a meal to minimize the risk of tooth erosion."
But, do we really need a reason to pop a glass of our favorite red? Not really – as long as you're of legal age, of course.