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Anything you eat or drink affects your dental health, sometimes with damaging results.

Even wine, which some suggest may benefit cardiovascular health. However, a recently published case report in the Journal of the American Dental Association takes a closer look at wine as an instigator of dental erosion.

Dental erosion, or the loss of tooth enamel and at times deeper parts of the tooth due to chemicals, has numerous causes. Chief among them are dietary factors.

Erosion results in a scooped out, smooth depression on the tooth's surface. In many cases, erosion causes sensitivity to hot and cold substances, or painful sensitivity if the enamel is worn to such a degree that the dentin is exposed. Beneath the enamel, dentin protects the pulp - the innermost part of the tooth that contains nerves and blood vessels.

Wine is highly acidic, notes the report's author-Louis Mandel, D.D.S. - with white wine being slightly more acidic than red.

"Because the critical point at which enamel dissolves is reported to be a pH of 5.0 to 5.7, wine can be a serious player in dental erosion," writes Dr. Mandel. Prolonged exposure to the acids in wine can lead to softening of the tooth enamel. "The altered enamel now becomes susceptible to wearing away" by chewing and toothbrushing, he adds.

Dr. Mandel presents the case report "because wine gradually has become part of society's diet and because dentists are in the key position to note the dental damage it can cause."

Other dietary factors implicated in dental erosion include fruits, juices and candies with high concentrations of citric acid and carbonated beverages. Dental erosions can have a myriad of causes, however - from reflux disease, gastritis or bulimia to the prolonged oral retention of medications such as hydrochloric acid tablets, vitamin C or aspirin. To find the cause, it's vital to have the condition evaluated by a dentist.

Dr. Mandel has additional advice to wine drinkers: restrict wine consumption to meal-time; use fluoride toothpastes, mouthwashes and topical applications; alkaline mouthwashes may be helpful; use proper brushing techniques with a soft toothbrush; and delay brushing at least an hour after drinking wine so that teeth have time to remineralize after acid exposure.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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