Professional wine tasters putting teeth at risk, study finds

Their swill-and-spit sessions can soften enamel and make teeth vulnerable to erosion

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Professional wine tasters may appear to have one of the world’s best jobs, but a new study has highlighted the potential threat to their teeth.

Researchers at the University of Adelaide found that just 10 one-minute swill-and-spit sessions are enough to soften tooth enamel and make teeth vulnerable to erosion.

The study, published in the Australian Dental Journal, found the acid in most wines would render teeth vulnerable to erosion “within minutes”.

The author of the study, Dr Sarbin Ranjitkar, said professional wine tasters and winemakers sample anything from 20 to 150 wines a day, with judges tasting up to 200 a day during wine shows. These levels of exposure to acid represent a “significant risk to their oral health”, she says.

 “Our results reinforce the need for people working in the profession to take early, preventative measures, in consultation with their dentists, to minimise the risks to their teeth.”


Leta Bester, the founder and director of the London Wine Academy, says the risk of tooth damage is “something you are aware of in the trade”. Ms Bester’s organisation advises tasters not to brush their teeth until at least an hour after a wine tasting as it risks softening the enamel. “We also advise drinking water or milk or eating some cheese to neutralise the acidity.”

Ms Bester says there’s an upside to the high exposure to acid. “My hygienist told me that… wine tasters are actually less likely to have a build-up of plaque on their teeth.”

Associate Professor Sue Bastian, from Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, said professional wine tasters should apply remineralising agents such as calcium, phosphate and fluoride to their teeth the night before a tasting session. “The morning of a wine tasting, we advise not brushing the teeth or, if that’s too unpalatable, chewing gum to stimulate saliva, which is naturally protective” she says.

Professor Damien Walmsley, the British Dental Association’s scientific adviser, said occasional drinkers can continue to enjoy a glass of wine. “Social drinkers [should just] limit their intake to mealtimes and avoid sipping for long periods.”