Drinking red wine in moderate amount helps to rinse teeth clean of bacteria during and after meals, says a new study.
Earlier studies have linked moderate red wine intake with everything from improved longevity to diminished risk of cardiovascular and neurological diseases.
And because the new study was conducted with non-alcoholic red wine, even teetotallers can enjoy dental benefits, reports ABC Science.
Co-author Professor Gabriella Gazzani, of Pavia University in Italy, said that alcohol's cavity-preventing benefits are already well known and that's why they investigated "de-alcoholised red wine to verify if substances different from ethanol with anti-strep properties occur in this beverage."
The researchers purchased red wine from the Veneto region and removed the alcohol using a technique called vacuum concentration.
They then cultured Streptococcus mutans, a common bacteria that feed on sugars in food and contribute to tooth enamel demineralisation, which often results in cavities.
In the lab, the bacteria easily mixed with saliva and saliva-coated pulled teeth, along with saliva-coated calcium ceramic beads.
However, when the non-alcoholic red wine was added to each one, the wine prevented S. mutans from clinging to teeth and saliva.
Next, the researchers determined that the active components in red wine that protect teeth are proanthocyanidins, naturally occurring flavonoid compounds previously found to have antioxidant properties.
The compounds are in many plant edibles, such as apples, cinnamon, cocoa and teas.
The researchers do think that proanthocyanidins could be separated from wine and studied for their potential oral health benefits.
Acids and sugars in some wines may actually contribute to tooth decay, so isolating wine's tooth-supporting components could lead to an even more beneficial product, at least from a dentistry standpoint.
In separate research, scientists from Laval University in Quebec, Canada found that polyphenols in red wine also help to control immune cell response in gums to bacterial infection.
The study will be published in the journal Food Chemistry.