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Is Happy Hour Hurting Your Teeth?

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If you’re a vino-lover, you might sometimes worry about your favorite red staining your teeth. But discoloration isn’t the only downside to drinking wine: The acid in the drink can eat away at your tooth enamel too, leaving you at risk for cavities, sensitivity, and pain. Plus, the damage can happen faster than you might expect. A new study in Australian Dental Journal found that just 10 one-minute wine tasting sessions can significantly soften enamel. And while you may not be tasting wine so much as gulping (er, sipping) it, all it takes is a few minutes of repeated exposure to cause harm. (Find out What Your Teeth Are Telling You About Your Workout.)

To protect your choppers from your Cab habit, order water alongside your wine. When you finish a glass of the latter, swish with the former to rinse away any acids clinging to your teeth, suggests Thomas Schell, D.M.D., a dentist in Lebanon, NH. Just make it flat water; some sparkling types are more acidic, which can worsen damage. (Or if you’re really brave, try oil.)

Also smart: munching on cheese between sips, says Schell. Cheese is alkaline, so it can neutralize the acids in wine, preventing them from eating away at your enamel. (Learn How To Whiten Teeth Naturally with Food.) 

Finally, if you’re really worried about the state of your teeth, consider asking your dentist for a prescription-state fluoride toothpaste or rinse, recommends Schell. This will help re-harden weakened enamel and can ward of future damage.

But avoid brushing with it (or any toothpaste) immediately after drinking wine (or other acidic beverages, like OJ), warns Schell. This will just work the acid deeper into your teeth, accelerating the damage.

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