Cheers! That glass of red wine you pour each day to enhance your heart health or overall health may also be helping to keep your mouth healthy by inhibiting tooth decay and gum disease.

Studies in Italy have shown that chemicals in red wine called proanthocyanidins, phytonutrients found in foods like grapes, apples and chocolate that have antioxidant properties, seem to prevent the bacteria Streptococcus mutans, which causes tooth decay, from sticking to saliva and teeth.

Italian researchers removed the alcohol from a high-quality Italian red wine, then added the nonalcoholic red wine to cultures of S. mutans in saliva, saliva-coated extracted teeth and saliva-coated calcium ceramic beads. They found that the addition of the wine prevented the bacteria clinging to the saliva and the teeth.

There is also an ever-growing array of whitening products you can buy in any drug store or supermarket, from whitening strips to mouthwashes, toothpastes and even whitening pens. These contain a lower concentration of whitening agent, and the toothpastes often contain an abrasive to help remove surface stains from the enamel of your teeth.

“Our findings demonstrate that red wine polyphenols have potent antioxidant properties,” concluded the study authors from the Université Laval in Quebec, Canada.

Research isn’t as clear about benefits of white wines, and some researchers say the high acid content of white wine might erode tooth enamel.

The American Dental Association offers consumers more information on the connection between a healthy mouth and a healthy body and recognizing, treating and preventing gum disease and information on diet and oral health on