The holidays are a wonderful time for giving gifts, spending time with family, and sipping red wine at parties—one of these activities can lead to teeth staining. Red wine is a known culprit for teeth discoloration, but don’t fret just yet: there are simple ways to avoid a purplish smile. Here, we lay out the background and facts on red wine stains as well as tips for reducing discoloration, so you can smile confidently at that long-awaited holiday party, pose in pictures with your pearly whites, and still enjoy that glass of merlot.

Why Red Wine Stains Teeth?

Why Red Wine Stains Teeth?

So, does red wine stain your teeth? The short answer is yes—but you shouldn’t worry if you’re maintaining excellent oral health care habits and consuming red wine in moderation. When looking into why red wine stains, it’s worth looking at what kind of stain it causes. According to the American Dental Association, red wine stains are considered extrinsic stains, which means the stain results from colored compounds contacting your enamel (intrinsic stains, conversely, are stains that occur inside the tooth). In other words, like tea or coffee, red wine stains because of the intense colored pigments interacting with the outside of your teeth.

To break down the science, when you drink red wine, your teeth are encountering three threats, according to an interview with the head dentist of Rutgers Health University Dental Associates. First, there are anthocyanins, which are the pigments in grapes that give red wine its purplish color. Then there are tannins (which come from the skins, seeds, and stems) that can bind the colored pigment to your teeth. The third threat is the acidity found in wine, making your enamel more porous, thus causing the wine stain to stick. Therefore, it’s essential to maintain healthy enamel care and prevent plaque buildup so that the wine pigment has a more challenging time sticking to your teeth.

Still, there’s no need to panic over switching to white wine for your holiday gathering. It’s still a great choice and also has known health benefits. According to the American Heart Association, red wine is linked to benefits like lessening heart disease symptoms. That being said, it’s always best to consume alcohol in moderation.

Tips and Tricks for Reducing Red Wine Stains

Want to learn how to stop red wine from staining your teeth? Here are a few methods to keep in mind at that holiday party or any time you decide to sip a glass of red wine.

1. Brush and floss beforehand: Stains cling to the film of plaque on your teeth, so a thorough brushing and flossing before heading into your holiday event is a good personal rule to follow. By adequately removing new plaque biofilm and food residue from your teeth before an indulgent meal, you can minimize your chances of staining. Cleaning your teeth on this type of schedule also cuts down your tooth decay and gum disease risk.

Brush Mouth

2. Rinse your mouth afterward with water: To help prevent red wine from lingering on your teeth, take a swig of water, which is generally a good habit while consuming alcohol to keep you hydrated. You may think it makes sense to brush the wine off your teeth, but as Rutgers Health University Dental Associates recommends, you should avoid brushing your teeth right away if you’ve eaten acidic food or drink. The acid weakens tooth enamel, and brushing too soon can remove it. If you do want to brush, wait at least 30 minutes.

Rinse Mouth

3. Eat as your drink: Consider munching on cheese and vegetables as you drink; these foods can act as a barrier to the acid in red wine. That’s because foods that stimulate saliva can help reduce the effects of acid and restore minerals to areas of teeth, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. Go with particularly fibrous foods low in sugar, such as broccoli, celery, or hard cheeses, all of which can stimulate saliva flow and naturally scrub away drink stains.

4. Use whitening toothpaste: Whitening toothpaste works to remove surface stains on your teeth that naturally occur over time and prevent new stains from forming. It’s a good idea to switch to whitening toothpaste if you’re concerned about keeping your smile bright at any time of year.

Whitening Toothpaste

5. Use whitening strips: Teeth whitening strips contain peroxide or bleach. Thus, they work to whiten your teeth the same way bleach works to whiten your clothes or your hair. The peroxide bleaches color from your teeth in order to restore their natural, white color.

Teeth Whitening Strips

The holidays are a wonderful time of year to share with family and friends—and you don’t have to get bogged down by a red wine stain on your teeth: Just practice these tips and maintain a great oral health routine to ensure your smile is sparkling as you enjoy your favorite red.