Brush, floss and drink a glass of red wine

Brush, floss and drink a glass of red wine

A few years ago, I reported on a study at Oregon State University that showed that white wine was as effective a germ killer as Lysol. I assumed that the alcohol was the antimicrobial agent, but it turns out that de-alcoholized white wine was just as effective in killing germs on countertops and other kitchen surfaces. So what does that have to do with teeth? It turns out red wine is an effective antibacterial agent itself whether straight from the glass or in the de-alcoholized version.

Wine Spectator magazine published another article that points out another health benefit of wine. Previous research has suggested that wine, largely because of its acidity, can erode tooth enamel. But a new paper in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry claims that red wine has antimicrobial properties that may prevent periodontal disease and the loss of teeth.

Teeth are especially susceptible to bacteria—once a microorganism latches onto a tooth, it's liable to stay there, producing high levels of acid, which over time demineralize teeth and can lead to disease. Scientists have been looking for an effective antimicrobial application for the mouth with as few side effects as possible. (Some existing remedies can dull one’s sense of taste.)

For this study, researchers from universities in Madrid and Zurich used a biofilm model—a collection of microorganisms that resemble human dental plaque, to which they added five species of bacteria that could cause mouth disease. Since polyphenols have been known to combat bacteria, the scientists applied red wine, de-alcoholized red wine, red wine with grape-seed extract, water and a 12 percent ethanol solution to the biofilm.

Their results revealed red wine with added grape-seed extract as the most effective antibacterial agent, fighting three of the five bacterial strains. The red wine, both dealcoholized and not, proved effective against two of the strains.