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Shelley Shearer: How to enjoy Valentine’s Day without those red tooth-stain worries

As we approach Valentine’s Day, we think of red hearts, chocolate-covered cherries, boxes of assorted chocolates and red wine to start off special dinners. Unfortunately, red is a color that doesn’t pair well with teeth.

From trendy beet salads and delectable raspberry tarts to your favorite cabernet, merlot, pinot noir or malbec, there is a list of foods and drinks that stain your teeth.

Here’s a guide to what can affect your teeth and what to do about it so you don’t have to whine about the wine.

Why Does Red Stain?

When it comes to wine, the color red is a dominant force. Just think about what a fiasco it is when a guest spills red wine on your carpet. Everyone panics and searches for some club soda to blot the stain. Apply that scenario to your teeth.

Red wine has strong pigments that cling to porous surfaces like your teeth. The pigments can make a visible mark after a few sips. The wine’s acidity and tannins are also challenges as they eat away at tooth enamel. Since enamel is not completely smooth, the red pigmentation will find its way into the tiniest of crevices and cracks.

Red Foods and Drinks That Affect Teeth

• Red wine is not the only staining culprit. Coffee, tea and soda are also acidic and produce enamel erosion.

• Fruit is delicious and healthy but can leave behind visible reminders of what you’ve consumed. Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries in particular contain an intense amount of  color  pigmentation, whether they are blue, red or black. The color in these berries has the potential to stick to your enamel and stain your teeth.

• Vegetables such as beets are real color crusaders. If the pioneers could use beets as a dye, just imagine what they can do to your teeth.

• Juices. Think about the strong colors from cranberries and pomegranates that can linger on teeth long after the juice is consumed.

• Sports drinks. Cherry and strawberry can boldly linger on teeth, but all sports drinks carry much acid that will erode tooth enamel.

• Candy and sweets. Whether you are consuming those cute pinkish-red candy hearts with the snappy sayings or a box of assorted chocolates, some color and definitely sugar will invade your teeth.

• Soy sauce. Ok, there is not much sugar or supposed color action here, but immense acidity comes from soy sauce. And believe it or not, it is a big tooth strainer. Beware the next time you visit the sushi bar.

How to Avoid Tooth Stains

1. Brush and Floss Before Wine Time. Brushing and flossing before your Valentine’s dinner will fortify your teeth by providing a film of protection for tooth enamel. By properly removing new plaque and food residue from your teeth before a meal you can minimize your chances of staining. Cleaning your teeth on this type of schedule also cuts down on your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

2. Rinse Your Mouth Out Afterward. To help prevent red wine from lingering on your teeth, keep sipping on water. It’s actually a great habit to develop for consuming any type of alcohol as it keeps you hydrated and pushes away acid and food particles from the teeth. While consumers think it makes sense to immediately brush the wine off, many dentists believe in waiting at least 30 minutes because enamel is actually more sensitive right after a meal. You should wait at least  30 minutes before brushing  . This enables the enamel to recalcify.

3. Chew sugarless gum. This stimulates the saliva to go into action and help keep stains, acid and sugar from loitering in your mouth.

4. Eat As You Drink.
There is a reason why wine and cheese go together. Food can act as a barrier to the acid in red wine. Fibrous foods that are low in sugar, such as apples, broccoli, celery or hard cheeses can stimulate saliva flow and naturally scrub away drink stains. Cheddar cheese in particular counteracts acids in food, actually helps in cleaning your teeth, and contributes to restoring your pH balance.

5. Stay Away From Home Remedies. Ever heard of anyone brushing with baking soda and destroying their tooth enamel? Enough said.

6. Maintain regular dental checkups. Need I say more? Dental hygienists do a terrific job at cleaning and whitening. This will go a long way toward maintaining a beautiful, shiny white smile not only for Valentine’s Day, but year ‘round.

Whether you are counting on an upscale dinner, indulging in chocolates or attending a party with fruit punch or wine, take care of your teeth and have an enjoyable 2020 Valentine’s Day.

Dr. Shelley Shearer is a graduate of the University of Louisville Dental School and Founder of Shearer Family and Cosmetic Dentistry in Florence, the largest all-female dental practice in Northern Kentucky.

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