Wine and tea are two of the most commonly mentioned treats when discussing tooth staining from food and for good reason. They are also among the most commonly imbibed drinks on the planet, along with coffee and other substances. But, research has found an interesting link between tooth staining from tea and whether or not you drink wine that could leave tea drinkers happier (if not completely off the hook).
Prior Exposure to Acidity Increases Tea Staining
Back in 2009, a researcher at New York University found that teeth soaked in white wine and then black tea developed more stains than teeth soaked in water and then black tea. The point of the study was actually that white wine could also stain your teeth like red wine could, which is something that now, of course, isn't new news. But, the BBC pointed out that this result also indicated that black tea wouldn't stain teeth quite as much as long as nothing acidic had been drunk or eaten before you drank the tea.
Stains Attack From Different Angles
Tooth staining happens due to a few factors. The major ones are that plaque on your teeth can pick up stains, and acidic foods and drinks can weaken the enamel.
Plaque can gather near your gumline and in between teeth, but it can also exist as a thin film all over your tooth. When you drink something dark that has pigments that can stain your teeth, the plaque can absorb those pigments -- and plaque is difficult to get rid of on your own when it's older and harder.
Acidic foods and drinks like wine, oranges, and even tea that contains tannins can weaken your tooth enamel so that the staining pigments settle into your tooth. That's even harder to deal with on your own and usually requires a trip to the dentist for a cleaning and whitening session.
But, what the NYU research showed was that the tea alone was not as staining as other liquids. This is good news for tea drinkers who don't drink wine (and who don't eat acidic foods) before drinking the tea, and you might see at a more formal dinner where wine accompanied the food and then was followed by tea and dessert.
What Can You Do to Help Keep Your Teeth Bright?
For starters, try not to have tea after or with acidic foods and drinks. Also, if you're going to drink wine at all, either try to drink white wine. It will still have that acid effect on your tooth enamel, but because the wine doesn't contain nearly as many staining compounds as red wine or dark tea, it's less likely to turn your teeth a darker color as quickly.
Or, brush your teeth before going out to drink red wine. Brushing removes loose plaque and thus reduces the chances that you'll end up with purplish plaque on your teeth.
And most of all, see your dentist about cosmetic dental treatments. Food and drink, as well as other factors like age, do lead your teeth to lose their white sheen over time. A whitening session with your dentist can restore that pearly smile.