Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Wine Acid Softens Teeth in Minutes

The acid in wine can make teeth vulnerable to erosion within minutes, prompting renewed calls for professional wine-tasters to protect their teeth.

Laboratory simulations of the kind of short, multiple exposures to wine acid experienced by wine-tasters, published in the Australian Dental Journal, revealed that just ten 1-minute episodes of wine tasting are enough to cause softening of tooth enamel, with the affected teeth becoming vulnerable to mechanical wear within a few minutes.

“With professional wine-tasters and winemakers tasting anywhere from 20 to 150 wines per day, and wine judges tasting up to 200 wines per day during wine shows, this represents a significant risk to their oral health,” says co-author Dr Sarbin Ranjitkar of the University of Adelaide’s School of Dentistry. “Our results reinforce the need for people working in the profession to take early, preventative measures, in consultation with their dentists, to minimise the risks to their teeth.”

A/Prof Sue Bastian of the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine says lectures on wine erosion have raised awareness among the University’s winemaking students of this potential occupational hazard.

“Typically, the night before a wine-tasting session it is best to apply remineralising agents in the form of calcium, phosphate and fluoride to coat and protect the teeth,” she says. “The morning of a wine-tasting we advise not brushing the teeth or, if that’s too unpalatable, chewing gum to stimulate saliva, which is naturally protective.

“After a wine tasting, the teeth are likely to be much softer, so we recommend rinsing with water, and when it comes time to clean the teeth, just putting some toothpaste on your finger and cleaning with that. Cleaning with a brush when teeth are soft runs the risk of damaging the enamel,” she says.