Every day, billions of people from all over the world drink coffee, wine and tea. These drinks have been part of human history for thousands of years. Is it possible that these beloved beverages can actually be ruining our teeth?

In a word, yes!

Although many of us love to start the morning with a hot cup of coffee, and wine is a social lubricant for many a dinner party and high-class reception, these beverages can harm our teeth. In addition to the other health effects of caffeine and alcohol, these drinks have particular impact on our dental health.

So what is it about wine and coffee that make them so damaging to teeth?

The answer: acid.

Coffee and wine are both highly acidic beverages. The acid in these drinks interacts with the enamel in our teeth and causes the tooth enamel to break down over time.

Coffee and wine also can stain our teeth. If you’re a heavy drinker of coffee or wine, your teeth are likely to show unsightly signs of your beverage consumption.

So what can you do? How can you enjoy a morning cup of coffee or an evening glass of wine without worrying about damaging your teeth?

Here are a few tips:

• Sip, don’t slosh. Try to avoid the amount of contact that the drink makes with your teeth. While you’re drinking your coffee, try not to slosh the coffee around in your mouth - don’t cause your teeth to be in contact with the liquid any longer than necessary.

• Use a straw. If you’re a frequent visitor to Starbucks or other coffee places, get a straw to drink your mocha frappucino. Drinking through a straw causes the liquid to pass by your teeth - reducing the amount of contact that the acidic liquid makes with your tooth enamel.

• Don’t brush too soon after drinking. So you just had a cup of coffee/glass of wine. Your teeth are coated with a thin layer of acid, eating away at your tooth enamel. You might think that the solution is to go brush your teeth, right? WRONG. If you brush too soon after drinking coffee or wine, you might actually make the problem worse. The act of brushing your teeth will spread the acid around and disperse the acidic effects farther and deeper into your tooth enamel. Wait at least an hour after drinking coffee or wine - and drink some water - prior to brushing.

• Beware of white wine. Most people assume that red wine is the biggest culprit in damaging and staining teeth - but recent research suggests that white wine might actually be more harmful. Avoid the effects of wine by sipping your drink less frequently - and try not to “soak” your teeth. (Some of the worst effects of wine on teeth have been observed in wine tasters - who frequently “soak” their teeth as a side effect of sampling dozens of different wines.)

• Be cheesy. One of the best ways to counteract the effects of wine on your teeth is to eat some cheese - either along with or shortly after your wine drinking. Cheese contains calcium, which helps to prevent dental erosion - by eating cheese; you are helping to replace the calcium in your tooth enamel that is damaged by the acid in the wine. There’s a reason why wine and cheese go together so well...

You don’t have to give up drinking coffee and wine. But just be aware that there are risks to your teeth.