White white doesn't mean white teeth

White wine #1

 

Red wine. The infamous tablecloth wrecker and destroyer of white shirts. Like a clean-seeking missile, it strikes where the staining will be starkest. And that includes your teeth.

But if you thought a simple red for white wine swap would save your pearly whites, you’d be wrong.

Research presented this week in Miami (where they know a thing or two about getting teeth whiter than white) suggests than white wine might not be as innocent as the name suggests when it comes to keeping your choppers spotless.

Although red wine and fellow offenders coffee and cigarettes are well known no-no’s if you’re trying to maintain that Hollywood smile, white wine acts in a slightly more subtle way. While red wine contains a highly pigmented substance known as a chromogen (a compound that reacts to produce a coloured end product – or a stain on your teeth), white wine prefers to make use of its acidity to prep the teeth and leave the dirty work to others.

‘The acids in wine create rough spots and grooves that enable chemicals in other beverages that cause staining, such as coffee and tea, to penetrate deeper into the tooth,’ says Mark Wolff from the New York University College of Dentistry.

The team based their conclusions on experiments that involved dunking cow’s teeth (whose surface is apparently similar to human teeth) in white wine, red wine or water for an hour, and then immersing them in black tea to compare the extent of the staining.

‘Dipping teeth in white wine for one hour is similar to the effect of sipping the wine with dinner,’ explained Wolff.

While red wine still caused more staining than white, both attacked the surface of the teeth leaving them more susceptible to the action of other chromogens.

But no fear, this isn’t a veiled attempt to convince people to cut down on their alcohol consumption for the sake of their smile. Wolff targets the symptom rather than the cause, saying ‘the best way to prevent staining…is to use a toothpaste containing a whitening agent.’

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