Drinking red wine can improve oral hygiene, study claims

Olivia Petter
Scientists say we shouldn’t jump to starting our day with a gargle of Merlot quite yet: Getty

Wine-flavoured toothpaste, anyone?

It might not be as far fetched as it sounds, as a new study has revealed drinking red wine actually offers a number of health benefits that extend far beyond the mere feel-good factor.

After analysing the effect of polyphenols, the antioxidants found in red wine, Spanish chemists found that exposure to such compounds can help prevent bacteria from sticking to the gums that would normally lead to cavities and plaque.

Scientists from the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid examined the oral health benefits of two types of red wine polyphenols: caffeic and p-coumaric acid, both of which are also found in coffee and cranberry juice.

Both were successful in preventing potentially harmful microbes from sticking to the gums which could lead to gum disease and tooth decay.

Published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the scientists said the effect was stronger when the polyphenols were combined with the oral probiotic streptococcus dentisani bacteria.

Despite the promising findings, the study’s authors were quick to warn that we shouldn’t jump to starting our day with a gargle of Merlot quite yet, as the chemicals analysed in the study were far higher in concentration than those found in wine.

Instead, they advise using the molecules in red wine in preventative medicines that would help curb oral diseases.

Exposure would also need to be fairly extensive in order to really see the benefits, given that exposure to the polyphenols in the experiment lasted for up to 47 hours.

You might think you like red wine, but even the most hardcore of fans would struggle to keep the grape-based drink in their mouths for that long.

Plus, as Dr Gunter Kuhnle, a nutrition professor at the University of Reading, pointed out, the two compounds identified in the study are much more abundant in other foods, such as berries.

“This is interesting work done on cells outside of the body, but it is very preliminary and so one must be very cautious about extrapolating these results to any current health advice,” added Naveed Sattar, a professor in metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow.

“The findings suggest some compounds called phenols should be investigated further for their roles in preventing bacteria binding to cells and causing infection, but this needs much validation.”