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11.13.2006

My Latest Occupational Hazard

Our bodies know things, and tell us all the time, but most of the time we choose to ignore them. I eat foie gras and as much as I enjoy it, I can feel the arteries hardening after each bite. Likewise, I've known for a while that spending eight hours tasting several hundred wines is not great for my teeth. When they're Rieslings or Pinot Noir or other wines that tend to have higher acidity levels, my teeth really hurt for the next 24 to 36 hours afterwards. I have to brush gingerly, and anything very cold or hot makes me wince in pain.

Well, like a lot of these things, it's only a matter of time before we come face to face with someone who's willing to tell us just how bad the things we have been doing are for us. For many, it was Supersize Me. For me, it's the latest dental research that shows I'm probably eating away my enamel at rates that approach something like twenty times the normal rate of ordinary citizens. Not that I expect a lot of sympathy, mind you -- I know most people would love to have the problem of tasting so much wine that their teeth enamel might be in danger.

I suppose I can take some small consolation that I stopped drinking canned soda-pop several years ago, and so am probably suffering less damage in that department than most (I was one of those kids who really did drop a tooth in a cup of Coke to see that it really did dissolve over the course of weeks). But I suppose this study is the equivalent of the sadistic dentist in Little Shop of Horrors saying "you don't want your mouth to look like THIS do you?"

The real question is what to do about it beyond my current practice of drinking lots of water and regularly eating cheddar cheese at these large tasting events (which, little to my knowledge, helps neutralize acids). I just hope I don't have to start wearing some wine tasting equivalent of a night guard. How embarrassing would that be?

Comments (20)

Jason Lefler wrote:
11.14.06 at 3:02 AM

I recently endured a 3 day stretch of oral agony due to the Terry Theise Champagne tasting. How am I supposed to remain a cultured wine connoisseur with a mouth full of rotting teeth?

David wrote:
11.14.06 at 7:18 AM

Alder, C'mon, take one for the team! and think about all of the positive health effects of drinking all that red wine!

Brian Miller wrote:
11.14.06 at 8:03 AM

Urg. Dentistry. I am scheduled for my (last) round of "deep cleaning" on Thursday

11.14.06 at 8:36 AM

It's a dirty job but someone's gotta do it. When you mentioned the fact that you had given up soda a years ago it made me feel better because i have done the same thing. I haven't had a soda in years. But what I really love abou this post is your attention to detail and driving your point home with the "THIS" link. Nice. I also need to rent Little Shop again. It's been way too long.

EVWG

Alder wrote:
11.14.06 at 9:02 AM

Jason,

Yeah, I hear ya. That one had me hurting, too. I guess we're just gonna have to buy really good dental insurance. Either that or we gotta get acidulation outlawed in the US and change all the French AOC rules so that people can only pick overripe grapes...

Taylor wrote:
11.14.06 at 2:42 PM

I was in the chair at the dentist and she was like-- do you drink alot of coffee (no), tea (no), soda (no). This was while she has dental tools stuffed in my mouth mind you. Finally I gurgled out I was a wine critic and she just shook her head. Then we discussed why teeth whitening was useless for people like us.

Oh well- I'll take our job hazards anyday.

Sorry to hear about your pain. Drink lots and lots of sparkling water at events- it helps keep the palate fresh better than still water and I think flushes away wine residue better. But the CO2 might agitate your teeth more- not sure.

PS We keep Oral-B brushups on us for right after tastings. It helps with the staining abit and that way we don't look like drunks walking around town.

Taylor wrote:
11.14.06 at 2:50 PM

Alder,

On the acid front- how about a post tasting milk gurgle.

Also, (per a dental site) the sweetening agents in sugarless gum are effective in combating the bacteria in plaque and fighting the acid that eats away at enamel.

victoria wrote:
11.14.06 at 6:53 PM

I would do pretty much anything to have your problems. Want to switch lifes for a couple of weeks...? I can taste wine, you can sell Real Estate (very exciting!!!)...

Jonathan wrote:
11.14.06 at 7:48 PM

Years ago when I worked at Mumm Napa, our winemaker (Greg Fowler) would tell me how hard the pre-blend tasting trials was on the enamel of his teeth. I, too have experienced problems like you've encountered - albeit our maladies are with FINISHED wines. Imagine it with unfinished super high-acid base wines (picked at 18/19 Brix) used for sparkling wines. And maybe 100+ lots. Every day for a couple of weeks. Ouch. I vote for extra dental coverage for all winemakers...and journalists.

Robbie wrote:
11.14.06 at 8:20 PM

I like Merlot.

cd wrote:
11.15.06 at 4:47 PM

One suggestion I stumbled across a couple years ago was to (sorry folks) NOT brush your teeth the morning of a tasting. something about your overnight plaque buildup could actually help protect your teeth for the day from the acids. of course brushing after is still recommended. ;-)

Henry wrote:
11.15.06 at 6:56 PM

They make a special tooth-paste for wine tasters. Ask your dentist about it. It helps remove stains and (might) help with sensitivity and enamel. Otherwise, go with EnamelOn and Sensodyne.

jeff wrote:
11.15.06 at 9:59 PM

poo.

Some dentist wanted attention and succeeded.

My detist told me the same thing 'cd' stumbled into. The plaque will protect, water will help, and brush when the 'danger' is past.

I drink wine, and I have NEVER had a cavity!

Sleep well tonight! - j

Jess wrote:
11.16.06 at 7:48 AM

Just saw a commercial advertising Crest Whitening rinse. I'm not sure how it works, but maybe you could have a flask of it on you when you're power tasting.

Golly wrote:
11.17.06 at 2:11 PM

My brother in law had to give up his grapefruit juice habit for the same reason. The not brushing beforehand tip is gross but probably true, it certainly reduces discomfort. I haven't tried it, but does chewing an antacid every dozen wines or so help?

Alder wrote:
11.17.06 at 2:25 PM

I'd be afraid to try that as it would mess with my tastebuds.

Steve wrote:
11.18.06 at 9:42 AM

I used to have this problem too. I remember once tasting through 125 new German Rieslings. I couldn't floss for a week after that! I have now changed my tasting habits. I do not do mass tastings like that anymore. What's the point? After a while, your palate is so tired you can't taste anymore anyway. For me, 25 or 30 wines is the maximum. Also you don't have to slosh the wine all around your mouth. The key point is the aroma, not the taste -- and you can just taste down the center of your tongue without gargling the wine all around your gums and teeth. I've seen too many wine writers with ugly blackened teeth. Not for me!

carlos Serafim wrote:
11.22.06 at 2:10 PM

It's ok guys. Just have your teeth removed when you no longer like the way they look. If you don't like the toothless look then just keep 3 teeth on top and 3 on the bottom. That way your new dentures will have something to hold on to.
Nobody cares about old wine tasters anyway. They have too many opinions by then.

Nancy wrote:
11.24.06 at 1:31 PM

You'll be happy to know that, according to W. Blake Gray, of the SF Chronical (http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/02/16/WIG3BH8FDN1.DTL&hw=acid+in+wine+coke&sn=001&sc=1000), soft drinks are higher in acid than wine! Bottoms up!

David wrote:
12.10.06 at 7:58 PM

I've had several dentists recommend to NOT brush my teeth for 24-48 hours after large industry tastings and to only use mouthwash (dentists can offer super-charged versions). Can't remember the chemical explantion completely, but the jist I've gotten is that high acid solutions can actually soften enamel and therefore you run the risk of literally brushing some away with too much abrasive before it has time to re-harden. On a separate note, Guiness is never more enjoyable than after a Terry Thiese tasting!

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