Made only in certain regions of Italy, prosecco is having its moment in the sun with wine enthusiasts lately. Made from at least 85 percent glera grapes, this versatile sparkling wine can be used for everything from pre-dinner aperitivo to celebratory dessert toasting and everything in between. Touted as the less expensive alternative to champagne, this delicious bubbly beverage may be causing an unexpected side effect to your teeth: enamel erosion.
The enamel is the part you see when you look at your teeth in the mirror. Enamel erosion occurs when acidic foods and beverages wear away the enamel, weakening the teeth and exposing the tooth’s dentin.
"Unfortunately, enamel has no living cells, which means it can’t regrow once it's eroded," says Dr. Gary Lederman of Bellmore, New York. "It also happens to be the hardest tissue in the entire body, so you know if something is causing it to erode, that substance must be very strong."
Prosecco, thanks to its characteristic bubbly fizz and high acid content, fits that bill.
"Prosecco has a pH of about 3, which is on par with orange juice and soda, but believe it or not, prosecco actually has more sugar than soda," explains Lederman. "So, when you drink prosecco, you’re not just vulnerable to the acid erosion, but to the sugar content as well."
In fact, prosecco has become so notorious for damaging the teeth, it has earned its own moniker: a prosecco smile, which is described as a soft, white line that sits just below the gum line.
"That soft line is actually the early stages of tooth decay," says Lederman. "This type of decay is very difficult to treat and may require a crown-lengthening procedure, which can be done to reshape the gums to address below-the-gum-line cavities."
So, what can you do if you still love the taste of wine but don’t want to trade in your smile for it?
"Switch to a non-sparkling white wine, or alternate sips of water between each sip of alcohol," says Lederman. He also recommends waiting at least 30 minutes to brush your teeth after drinking alcohol or other acidic beverages, and to make sure if you do drink alcohol to brush and floss before heading to bed.
"Skipping your oral cleaning routine is never a good idea for your teeth, but skipping your oral cleaning routine following a night of drinking is a terrible idea," he says.