The Real Hidden Danger of Wine Tasting (and THE Essential Tool for Protection)

Vinted on June 25, 2009 binned in wine health, wine tasting

Some of you out there reading this who may be in the wine trade will already know some of what I’m about to unfold here on the virtual pages of  To those people I say this: chime in with some comments to help those who are soon to step into danger’s path.

Some of you, who are new to the trade, or are eager and enthusiastic consumers who are planning to attend a wine tasting event during which you may have the opportunity to taste upwards of 100+ wines in a short amount of time.  To those people I say this: read on and pay attention – it just might save you some pain.  Some real pain.

As the bards AC/DC said, “For those about to Rock – We Salute You!

Anyway… I’m not talking about the fact that you need to pace yourself when tasting dozens and dozens of wines, or the hazard of your judgment becoming impaired due to absorbing alcohol through your mouth even if you spit all or most of your tastings.

I’m also not talking about the potential staining of your teeth from tasting a ton of red wine (though that is certainly an occupational hazard, though a temporary one).

Nope – I’m talking about something more… insidious…

I’m talking about the fact that wine tasting – red or white – at high volume absolutely wrecks your mouth, almost as raucously as AC/DC’s Angus Young wrecks your eardrums in concert with the insanely loud and blazing power of his Rock.


To make a long story short, the low pH levels found in wine can cause your gums to recede (exposing sensitive parts of your teeth root structures) and tooth erosion – in some causes, eroding teeth instantaneously.

The effect of this varies based on an individual’s sensitivity and their normal amount of saliva, which acts to protect tooth enamel and help to mitigate the negative impact of acid in the mouth when pH levels get too low.  According to The Adelaidean:

Wine makers, wine judges and wine marketers’ chosen profession puts them at a higher risk of tooth erosion, but it is a problem that can be reduced, according to Dr Diane Hunt, a senior lecturer in Restorative Dentistry at the University of Adelaide.

Tooth erosion can affect anybody’s teeth. It is an irreversible process, which rapidly occurs when acids, commonly from food and drink, are present in the mouth.

When these acids are present and the pH level of the solution that bathes the teeth gets below 4.5 teeth start to erode. The acids dissolve calcium and phosphate from enamel surfaces and expose the dentine, which is a very sensitive tooth material, causing tooth sensitivity.

Because the pH level of wines can range from 3.2 to 3.8, with sparkling wines as low as 2.8, instantaneous erosion can occur in susceptible people.

This topic has been covered before by other wine writers, and I noticed that Alder Yarrow at has experienced the same thing I have after tasting lots and lots of acidic whites – severe tooth sensitivity.  I also find that wine tasting makes the inside of my mouth rawer than an Angus Young guitar solo, taking several days, at a minimum, to recover.

The Adelaidean article goes on to note that Dr. Hunt recommends that wine tasters not brush their teeth before bouts of serious wine tasting, in order to let an extra layer of plaque help to protect their teeth.  Strangely, I haven’t been able to find any serious tasters who back that view – in fact, they tend to recommend just the opposite.

Take George Miliotes, Master Sommelier and Director of beverage and hospitality for the Seasons 52 restaurant chain, for example.

“I brush my teeth several times a day” he told me recently during a dinner at Season 52’s new Cherry Hill, NJ location.  He was talking about how he keeps his palate from fatiguing and his teeth from aching when he works with winemakers during the blending process (George blends wine on location that make up two of Season 52’s exclusive by-the-glass pours, from the Mosel and Jumilla, respectively), during which he tastes hundreds of samples.

Which brings us to the Secret Weapon portion of our post.

What is THE tool needed to help stave off the nasty destruction of your pearly whites during an intensive wine tasting?  A damn good toothbrush.

Personally, my gums were in sad, sad shape a few years ago, to the point where my dentist was uttering phrases like “gum surgery” which sounded very, very painful.  I invested in an OralB electric toothbrush, and have never looked back (the gums are now in tip-top shape, by the way).

Probably not the advice you were expecting, but if you’re going to taste a ton of wine, it’s the advice that you need to hear.

For those about to brush – WE SALUTE YOU!










  • dfredman

    Since it's very important to remain hydrated while tasting through a large amount of wine, I try to use a mineral water that's high in pH such as San Pellegrino. It's helpful overall in reducing tooth sensitivity, although if you're doing a lot of high acid wines it's still only a slight buffer. I'm wondering if there's been any research done as to whether using crackers between flights (or glasses) affects the level of tooth sensitivity…

    • 1WineDude

      Great points, especially about the crackers. Having said that, neither crackers or water intake helped me during TasteCamp EAST!

  • joeshico

    Never even thought it may be the wine. I too had some serious gum problems two years ago and
    surgery was suggested. Been using the standard everyday Oralb's since, but brushing way more often.
    Last check-up found nothing wrong with gums.

    • 1WineDude

      The wine could at least be a contributing factor. I've also heard that cupcake consumption is bad, but I'm ignoring that advice.

  • kim

    I found that it helps if you chew a Tums about an hour before the tasting. It like coats your teeth or something, and they don't hurt, even after tasting a whole bunch of high acid wines.

    • 1WineDude

      Interesting – thanks!

  • Ryan

    "wine tasting makes the inside of my mouth rawer than an Angus Young guitar solo, taking several days, at a minimum, to recover. "

    I definitely have that same problem! High-acid or overly crusty bread items tend to tear my mouth up. Obviously cheese is a HUGE help with wine, but during a tasting that's not very useful. I'm guessing after WBC I'll need oral surgery =X

    • 1WineDude

      :-) Let's hope not!

  • DancesWithWines

    hmmm makes sense now why my gums were so sensitive after a week of numerous daily tastings in Sonoma county last week! Next time I go I'll bring the tums, mineral water, a good toothbrush and brush often. Luckily, I was able to kick my cupcake habit. I've moved on to dark chocolate =)

    • 1WineDude

      Mmmmm… dark chocolate….

  • Dylan

    I use the same toothbrush, it really makes such a difference as I am a forgetful flosser, and by forgetful I mean lazy.

    Definitely an important subject for the new ones of us jumping into major tastings. The most important point is to brush your teeth soon after it's all done–it's the same as swimming in a chlorinated pool; if you shower immediately there are no problems, however if you delay, you notice the drying effects taking hold on your hair and skin. The new war cry for tasters? "When you're done being a lush, don't forget to brush."

    • 1WineDude

      Man, that tag line is soooo good.

      Wonder if OralB has a missed marketing op on their hands here…?

  • Todd Havens

    What a dangerous profession! Especially for any dentophobes in the audience. (I made that term up, but surely there's a word for the millions of people who hate going to the dentist.)

    Curious about the Tums and a high pH mineral water. Veddy, veddy interesting.

    • 1WineDude

      Yeah, and that's not even taking into account our livers…

  • Mark

    Here's an alternative to brushing-

    • 1WineDude

      Hi, Mark – I've got a sample of those myself, and I've been considering testing them out as a follow-up to this post. Thanks!!

  • mydailywine

    Yep. It is a true concern for serious wine drinkers and those of us who work in the wine biz. I have also had increasing tooth sensitivity over the past few years, especially after prolonged tastings.
    My secret weapon is Sensodyne toothpaste, used with a round electric toothbrush.
    Sadly and stupidly, I used to cringe when I saw this toothpaste in other people's bathrooms….now it has a permanent place in mine!

    • 1WineDude

      Funny you should mention Sensodyne – that is my regular everyday toothpaste (has been for a few years now)!

      I suppose that wine tasting – like growing old – is not for the meek! :-)

  • Jonathan

    Does anyone know of a gum that can be chewed to de-sensitize? After serious wine tasting (100 plus) I had unbelievable tooth pain
    Couldnt even brush! It was awful
    Who knows of a good solution?

  • Desiree

    Just experienced excrutiating sensitivity after induldging in 1 bottle of wine tonight so came online to search for reasons. I am so glad to have found this site, didnt even consider the acidity of the wine before. Next time I am going to brush my teeth with xylitol paste beforehand and chew xy gum frequently between glasses. I will also up the water intake…we’ll see how it goes, i am in pain tonight though..could barely brush my teeth!

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