Can red wine fight tooth decay?

Most people like to enjoy a glass of red every now and then, but did you know that drop of vino could be helping your oral health as well?

Tooth decay is one of the most preventable oral hygiene issues, but it can cause serious issues if left untreated. It occurs when there is a build up of bacteria in the mouth.

These organisms create acids that can damage the tooth significantly, leading to cavities or more severe infection and pain. Prolonged tooth decay can even lead to a loss of the tooth entirely, so it's important to do what you can to protect those pearly whites.

Thorough brushing and flossing help to remove any bacteria or food particles from the teeth, but a new study has found that red wine may have some surprising benefits in the fight against tooth decay.

Co-authored by Dr Victoria Moreno-Arribas of the Institute of Food Science Research in Madrid, the study indicates that a specific group of chemicals in red wine called flavan-3-ols may be effective in inhibiting oral bacterial growth.

Dr Moreno-Arribas and her colleagues grew five strains of oral bacteria on discs of hydroxyapatite, the main component that makes up the dental enamel of human teeth. Bacterial growth was encouraged by dipping the discs into sugar solutions mixed with saliva collected from study volunteers. All of the bacteria included in the experiments were known to be responsible for human dental diseases.

The bacteria developed into biofilms on the discs, similar to the process of what actually happens on human teeth. After a week, the biofilms were exposed to one of five different treatments every day for the following week. This included red wine, red wine without the alcohol, red wine with added grape seed extract, water, a 12 per cent ethanol solution and chlorhexidine.

Chlorhexidine is a key ingredient in many mouthwashes, designed to help remove bacteria from the teeth more effectively. Unfortunately, it can also stain the teeth and affect the sense of taste.
In the study, chlorhexidine was found to be most effective at removing the bacteria. However, the researchers also discovered that red wine with or without alcohol and red wine with grape seed extract were the next most effective combinations against oral bacteria. Additionally, the researchers pinpointed the effects to the flavan-3-ols contained within the mixtures.

The results of this study could impact the future of oral hygiene care. While a glass of red wine isn't an acceptable substitute for brushing and flossing, if the study is further developed, we could be rinsing using a mixture derived from the active ingredients in red wine.