The question: Do some wines stain teeth more than others?
The answer: You bet, and you’ve barked up the right tree with that question. In other words, colour me purple.
Where red wine enjoys popularity, dental hygienists and toothpaste vendors are sure to follow. Pigment in any red wine is pretty intense, which is why a single spot of merlot on a white blouse can be fatal for the garment. The colour saturation gets more intense as you go from light- to full-bodied, as you might have guessed. So, Beaujolais and pinot noir, for example, deliver less staining power than syrah, merlot and cabernet sauvignon, and wines such as Chianti and Rioja are more or less in the middle.
But colour saturation is not the only factor. Tannins, the astringent compounds found in grape skins, seeds and oak barrels, can act as a delivery mechanism and intensify the staining. Tannins have a tendency to bind to things such as proteins and the surface of your teeth, taking colour along for the ride. That’s bad news – again – for fans of syrah, merlot and cabernet sauvignon because those wines are highly tannic as well as inky.
So much for chemistry. I’d like to add something from experience: It’s not just what you drink, it’s how you drink. At professional tastings, you’ll see people making a big show of sloshing wine around in their mouths and puckering as though they were impersonating a carp swallowing a frog. They do this to aerate the wine and coax out nuances of aroma and flavour. Believe me, sloshing, especially at the front of the mouth, is the black-smile highway. I can sip cabernet sauvignon all evening without a care, but when I aggressively slosh a few small pours of Beaujolais or pinot noir during the course of my day job, it’s as though I’ve been hiding from the hygienist since the Depression. You may want to pay more attention to how you sip.
You can brush most of the stain away, thank goodness, but bear in mind this important rule: Don’t brush too soon. Wait at least one hour after your last sip. Acid in wine (and fruit juice and soft drinks) temporarily renders teeth vulnerable to erosion. Brushing will scrape away vital enamel, not just cabernet.
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