Red may be a traditional holiday color, but no one wants to wear it on their teeth.

An expert offers some tips for keeping “wine teeth” at bay during your holiday parties.

“When you drink red wine, you’re encountering a triple threat to your teeth’s whiteness: anthocyanins, which are the pigments in grapes that give red wine its rich color; tannins, which help bind the pigment to your teeth; and the acidity found in wine, which etches your enamel, making it more porous and it easier for the stain to stick,” said Dr. Uchenna Akosa. She is a dentist who heads Rutgers Health University Dental Associates in New Brunswick, N.J.

“The strength of your enamel and how prone you are to plaque build-up is key to how much your teeth might stain,” Akosa said.

Brush before you drink red wine, she advised. And don’t brush immediately after drinking.

Plaque can make it look like your teeth are stained, so brushing 30 minutes beforehand can reduce that issue. And toothpaste itself can cause more etching if you brush afterward.

Another tip: Don’t drink white wine before red wine, because the extra acid in the white wine will worsen the staining.

After drinking wine, swish your mouth with water. This reduces acidity and increases saliva flow, which fights harmful bacteria and maintains the ideal pH in your mouth.

Chewing food also stimulates saliva. Pairing cheese with wine stimulates saliva while reducing acidity from the wine.

“Of course, wine is not the only culprit,” Akosa said in a Rutgers news release. “Anything that can stain a shirt can stain your teeth, such as black coffee, black tea, berries, balsamic vinegar, chocolates, sweets and smoking. Drinks like soda and juices harm the enamel and make teeth more susceptible to stains.”

Akosa also recommends brushing teeth correctly and getting regular dental cleanings to keep enamel strong. Cleanings help remove the bacterial soft coating on teeth called plaque, which can cause cavities.

A soft toothbrush is the right choice, unless you have gum problems, she said. In that case, choose an extra-soft toothbrush.

Brush at a 45-degree angle to the gums, rather than straight, and move the brush gently back and forth in short strokes. Brush the outside, inside and chewing surfaces.

Before going to bed, use a water flosser or dental floss to remove particles.

All toothpastes contain five basic ingredients — fluoride, glycerin, sorbitol, calcium carbonate and sodium lauryl sulfate. But not all whitening toothpastes are good for your teeth, Akosa noted.

Look for natural ingredients such as organic coconut oil, activated charcoal or lemon oil for whitening rather than using charcoal or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) long-term.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on oral care.

SOURCE: Rutgers University, news release, Dec. 15, 2022