What Exactly Causes Wine to Stain Teeth?

If you’re a red wine drinker, you’re most likely aware of wine’s uncanny ability to stain your teeth. The damage usually isn’t apparent after one glass of wine, but over months or years of regular wine drinking.

However, red wine isn’t the only culprit. Other dark, fruit-flavored wines can easily stain teeth as well. But what exactly causes this popular alcoholic drink to stain your teeth? Here, we break down the elements that come together to give wine its reputation for causing tooth discoloration.


Chromogens are microorganisms that produce pigments, meaning colors. Chromogens are present in coffee, red wine, and even cigarette smoke [1]. Other foods high in chromogens include berries—including blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries—in addition to cherries and tomatoes.

These microorganisms are infamous for sticking to teeth and causing tooth enamel to stain. This is why drinking wine with a buffer such as plain old water or eating food with your drink can help lessen its staining effects!


Tannic acid is a specific form of tannin, which is a naturally-occurring chemical found in foods and drinks. Wine contains a significant amount of tannic acid [2].

While tannic acid has antioxidant benefits among other health benefits for the body, it’s also a prime culprit in tooth staining. In fact, tannin actually helps chromogens stain tooth enamel, so the two work together to create a darker shade for your pearly whites.

Other beverages and foods that contain tannic acid include grapes, green tea, turmeric, and even walnuts.

The Porous Nature of Tooth Enamel

Tooth enamel is porous in nature [3]. What this means is that although our teeth are strong and designed to resist damage, they are still subject to staining and the effects of bacteria and plaque.

Fortunately, teeth that have been stained by red wine are usually able to be brightened with professional tooth whitening. Since these stains are extrinsic, meaning they’re affected by outside sources, they can usually be removed with regular professional teeth cleanings and whitening as necessary.

However, even after your teeth are whitened, you’ll need to take care to minimize the effect of wine on your teeth to maintain your white smile. You can drink water or eat food with your wine, and visit your dentist for checkups and cleanings to minimize the effects of this beverage on your smile!

If your teeth have taken on a darker hue due to your love for wine, don’t be alarmed. Schedule an appointment with your dentist to help remove these stains and discuss how you can help keep your smile white while still enjoying wine!

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4058574/
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3509470/#B16-ijerph-09-03530
3. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2014.00388/full

What Exactly Causes Wine to Stain Teeth?
Article Name
What Exactly Causes Wine to Stain Teeth?
What exactly causes wine to stain your teeth? Here, we break down the elements that come together to give wine its reputation for causing tooth discoloration.
Aldie Family & Cosmetic Dentistry