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04.15.2009

Tartar Control Chardonnay: Wine Fights Cavities?

tartar_control_chard.jpgOnce upon a time I thought that one of the topics that I would write about with regularity would be the health effects of drinking wine. I quickly found out that attempting to do this would be a full time occupation, as it seems that literally several times per week there are new "discoveries" about the benefits of a diet that includes regular wine drinking. For instance, this latest study about how red wine helps you think more clearly.

As an aside, that article is a perfect example of how the reporting on such scientific studies is worse than horrible. The study in the article does not say that red wine helps you think more clearly, it reports that people given a dose of resveratrol, a chemical found in red wine, did better on a cognitive test than those who didn't have it.

My fatigue with wine related health stories, coupled with my skepticism at the accuracy of reporting on most scientific studies means that I have a pretty high threshold for contemplating bringing you news of yet another health benefit of wine.

But while this story about wine fighting cavities suffers from some the typical mischaracterization of the research findings as many such articles, I've actually got some personal anecdotal evidence that leads me to believe that there may be some fringe dental benefits to drinking wine.

At least this article reports on a study done using real wine in the mouths of real people. And while the findings don't exactly rise to the level of justifying a headline suggesting that wine does, indeed fight cavities, the scientists seem fairly confident that a diet of wine "improves oral health."

Cue the sound effect of popping corks and clinking glasses.

And then there's my experience over the past five years going to the dentist. Take these personal observations for what they are, but I have noticed that going to a large public wine tasting in the weeks before I get my teeth cleaned seems to have the effect of dramatically reducing the amount of plaque and tartar in my mouth. To the point that my dentist asks me what I did differently in the last couple of months to be keeping my teeth so much cleaner than normal.

If this is true, it's no doubt due to the acidity of wine, which is likely a double edged sword. That same acidity most likely can etch or even strip away tooth enamel or at the very least, leave teeth quite sensitive and painful. And anyone who tastes a lot of wine regularly knows that red wine, in particular, can easily stain teeth and exposed roots.

But, while I'm still young enough to not have dissolved away my teeth from a lifetime of wine tasting, I'm happy to hear that there might actually be some upside to it all. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go gargle with some Chardonnay before bed.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud