Many of us have woken up after an evening of red wine with horror at seeing our teeth stained purple.
Why does this happen? Red wine is perfectly designed to stain teeth. It's acidic, which creates microscopic holes in your enamel, increasing pigment catchment.
The pigment in question is anthocyanin, responsible for giving wine that lovely dark red hue. Tannins then help bind and stick these pigments to your teeth.
It is not all good news for white wine drinkers however. Whilst they would avoid staining, white wine tends to be higher in acid, which slowly but surely dissolves the outer tooth enamel, exposing the yellowish weaker dentin underneath.
This in turn can lead to secondary staining from food and other drinks such as coffee, as well as increased sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures.
So, what can be done to help us buffer the worst of a meeting with Dionysus?
Really making an effort with our oral hygiene will go a long way, as plaque build up on teeth will make them much more likely to stain. So, if you are planning on hitting the red, make sure to brush and floss well about an hour before your first glass.
Never brush between glasses, as brushing in an acidic environment will actually make things worse.
Your mother used to tell you never to drink on an empty stomach, but your teeth will thank you too. Protein rich foods (cheese anyone?) leave an invisible barrier between pigments and enamel surface, helping reduce infiltration.
Whilst many of us enjoy a glass of white before moving on to the reds, this is a double whammy for your poor teeth, as the higher acid level in the white will open the door to more staining later on.
The lighter reds such as Pinot Noir will have a lesser staining effect than for instance a Malbec or a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Swishing with water between glasses is another useful trick. Water will help lift off stains before they set, reverse the acidic PH and stimulate the flow of saliva, which in turn will help rebalance the ideal PH level, as well as fight cavity forming bacteria.
If you are not too inebriated, wiping the outer surface of your teeth with a wet paper or cotton towel at regular intervals helps tremendously as it removes the sticky film. Just do it in the bathroom though!
Even with these measures however, frequent drinkers might find their teeth getting duller and duller. Regular cleanings with your dentist will deal with the worst, and whitening procedures at dental clinics have become very sophisticated, ensuring that you can have the best of both worlds.