Warding Off Vampire Mouth
by Debra Meiburg MW
No one looks good with Vampire mouth. Not even True Blood’s Bill Compton can pull off the look. Photos from a big red wine night can look downright scary, with blue-red hued lips, grey teeth and purple tongues.
The red colour is less of a stain than a thin layer of sticky purple-stained saliva adhering to uneven and porous surfaces. A quick swipe of a cloth across your teeth will help eliminate the colour. Taking it a step further, you can try the heavily hyped ‘’Wine Wipes” or similar pre-packaged towelettes, though most are lightly scented with breath fresheners, which defeats the purpose of tasting fine wine. Still, finicky brides have been known to provide them to wedding guests before posing for photos. Many tasters slide a little petroleum jelly across their pearly whites before entering a roomful of wines. Cheese and other fatty substances earlier in the evening will also provide a protective coating and are less likely to interfere with wine flavour.
It is an old adage that to pour white wine on red wine spills to remove a fresh stain. This technique can also be used with some success in your mouth. If purple smile syndrome is a concern, then opt for lighter coloured, softer textured wines. Avoid shiraz, malbec and young Cabernet Sauvigon, all of which have high colour pigments. Instead, focus on pinot noir, Rioja or aged Barolo. Strategic sipping techniques can help keep your teeth white, though I wouldn’t go so far as the British Dental Journal which suggests sipping al beverages through a straw. The trick is to sip from the glass in a way that minimizes wine contact with your front teeth.
The key culprit in making our teeth vulnerable to staining is acidity. Acids found in juices, colas and wine, etch and erode our enamel making our teeth porous and stain absorbent, not just to red wine, but tea and coffee as well. Unfortunately acidity is prominent in most beverages as we find tartness, or low pH, refreshing. The mouth returns to its natural pH after about forty minutes as our saliva comes to rescue, rebuilding and ‘remineralizing’ our teeth as quickly as possible. A swish of water can help aid the transition and twart red stains. I wouldn’t recommend water after each sip of wine, though. It will botch up your tasting sensitivity and cause you to miss the all the fun due to frequent trips to the washroom.
Teeth whitening systems also make your teeth more porous, so if you are planning a red wine party, give up the bleach. Instead, turn to fluoride. Dentists have always advocated the use of fluoride to help protect teeth and flouride gel is passed under the tables of wine show judges like it’s an illicit club drug.
Tartar or plaque is more controversial. Because tartar is highly absorbent, it easily becomes a blue-gray colour, so keeping teeth tartar-free will always make your dentist – not to mention your date – happy. However, Dr. Diane Hunt, a researcher in restorative dentistry at the University of Adelaide has noted that tartar creates a protective barrier between your enamel and wine. She advocates dodging the tooth brush on occasions when wine professionals are exposed to hundreds of glasses per day, such as when judging, attending trade shows or blending winery samples. I would recommend dodging the wine professionals.
Most dentists agree on another reason to tumble into bed without brushing your teeth. Immediately after drinking any acidic drinks, your tooth enamel is vulnerable and sensitive to abrasion. Wait an hour or so after your final sip before turning to the tooth brush and consider using a baby’s brush as it is gentler on your tooth surfaces.