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Science says tasting too much wine could leave you toothless

Australia’s greatest wine critic, James Halliday, still has a great smile. Photo: Facebook.

Memo to wine buffs: drinking rots your teeth.

Taking OH&S to a new level for wine professionals, University of Adelaide researchers found the acid in wine makes teeth vulnerable to erosion within minutes, after researchers in the School of Dentistry simulated the kind of short, multiple exposures to wine acid normally experienced by wine tasters.

The results, published in the Australian Dental Journal, show that just 10 one-minute episodes of wine tasting are enough to damage tooth enamel. Dentists call that acid wear and it leaves teeth vulnerable to mechanical wear.

Study co-author Dr Sarbin Ranjitkar described the problem as a “significant risk” to the oral health of anyone heavily engaged with wine, including winemakers, critics and sommeliers.

“Our results reinforce the need for people working in the profession to take early, preventative measures, in consultation with their dentists, to minimise the risks to their teeth,” he said.

Students in the university’s winemaking degree are given lectures on this “occupational hazard” and how to prevent it.

Of course, it’s just not wine that’s to blame. Other high-acid drinks, especially fruit juices and sports/energy drinks, can have the same effect.

So if you’re worried that your shiraz addiction will leave you toothless, what should you do?

Associate Professor Sue Bastian, from the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, says that the night before a wine tasting session, apply remineralising agents in the form of calcium, phosphate and fluoride to coat and protect the teeth.

“The morning of a wine tasting, we advise not brushing the teeth or, if that’s too unpalatable, chewing gum to stimulate saliva, which is naturally protective,” she said.

And don’t rush out and brush straight after a tasting – it would do more harm than good.

“After a wine tasting, the teeth are likely to be much softer, so we recommend rinsing with water, and when it comes time to clean the teeth, just putting some toothpaste on your finger and cleaning with that. Cleaning with a brush when teeth are soft runs the risk of damaging the enamel,” Bastian said.

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