Researchers have now found that along with being heart-healthy, red wine has another pretty decent benefit — the common alcoholic beverage may help prevent cavities and improve your dental health.
Previous research had suggested that polyphenols, grape seed extract, and wine all had an ability to stop bacterial growth, and other studies noted that red wine could protect teeth against decay — though white wine was shown to be more harmful to dental health due to its high acid content, which can erode enamel.
In the new study, M. Victoria Moreno-Arribas and her colleagues wanted to dig a little deeper to better understand the link between wine and fighting cavities. In the study, which was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the researchers grew cultures of bacteria that are responsible for dental diseases as a biofilm, which they then dipped into various liquids — including red wine without the alcohol, red wine mixed with grape seed extract, and water with 12 percent ethanol — in order to observe the effects. They found that red wine — whether with or without alcohol — and wine mixed with grape seed extract were more likely to get rid of the bacteria. Of course, it’s hard to come to a complete conclusion or for researchers to begin developing potential remedies until this is tested in humans.
It’s a certain compound in red wine, fermented grape stems, seeds, and skins that are left over from wine production that make all the difference. Known as polyphenols, these compounds are able to block the ability of the bacteria streptococcus mutans (a common bacteria found in our mouths) to make glucans, which are broken down from sugar we eat. Glucans allow bacteria to stick to our teeth and destroy their surfaces. But polyphenols prevent the bacteria from making glucans, which allows the “good” bacteria in our mouths to thrive and prevent the bad bacteria from damaging our teeth. Researchers in previous studies also found that cranberries contained similar levels of polyphenols. Despite this growing evidence in favor of wine and cranberries, it’s important to note that cranberry juices contain a lot of sugar that can cancel the benefits of polyphenols, while red wine can stain your teeth.
It may be safe to say, at least, that kicking your soda and sweet juice habit for water and a glass of wine per day is probably the way to go — at least until scientists develop a treatment that harnesses polyphenols to fight tooth decay.