RED wine could hold the key to preventing and treating serious gum disease, research suggests.
Components found in the tipple, called polyphenols, were found to target molecules which attack cells causing periodontal disease.
This affects the gums and the bone that surrounds and supports teeth, often causing teeth to move and fall out. Around 15 per cent of those aged 21 to 50 suffer from periodontitis, rising to 65 per cent of those over 50.
Scientists in Quebec, Canada, suggest the polyphenols in red wine could be harnessed to tackle this disease.
However, people should not rush for the wine bottle just yet. Experts warned that red wine could stain the teeth, while excessive consumption of alcohol is linked with mouth cancer.
The latest research was highlighted at the annual meeting in Florida of the American Association for Dental Research.
Past studies have suggested that consuming fruit and yellow and green vegetables, as well as drinks like red wine, can cut the risk of cancer and heart disease.
These benefits have been put down to polyphenols which appear to have antioxidant properties, protecting the cells.
The Canadian researchers said: "These antioxidant properties of red wine polyphenols could be useful in the prevention and treatment of inflammatory periodontal diseases as well as other disorders."
Professor Liz Kay, scientific adviser to the British Dental Association, said: "This wouldn't appear to show red wine actually prevents periodontal disease. The way to do so is to keep your mouth perfectly clean."
The British Dental Health Foundation said that red wine could cause staining with frequent consumption.
Chief executive Dr Nigel Carter said: "Drinking red wine can lead to many different oral health problems and can be associated with mouth cancer."
In the UK mouth cancer is most common in Scotland, with around 600 new cases each year, and 200 deaths.
Dr Graham Chadwick, from Dundee Dental School and Hospital, said that excessive alcohol consumption had been linked to tooth erosion, with enamel broken down by acid in the diet.
"We also know from clinical experience that an at-risk group for dental erosion is professional wine tasters," he said.