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Wine Before Root Canals? In New York City Dentists’ Offices, It’s a Reality, and It Might Be Illegal

bottle and glass with red wine

A visit to the dentist can be scary for some, whether it’s a routine checkup or a major surgery. Two dental practices in New York City, however, is aiming to eliminate that fear in his patients — with wine.

Dr. David Janash of Park South Dentistry has begun offering patients a complimentary glass of red or white wine while they wait for the dental procedure to begin. This can “take the edge off,” so to speak, before a treatment like a root canal.

Janash told DNAinfo New York that his practice provides blankets and warm, scented towels for people while they get treatments, stating that patients “love it.” His practice also offered complimentary coconut water, juices, and tea for those who don’t want alcohol.

In addition to Janash’s practice, Nolita’s Marini and Manci, DMD, provides a bucket of wine bottles for patients to pour for themselves while they sit in the waiting room. One anonymous patient, age 29, said, “It’s an extra something that helps you dread the dentist a little less. I don’t know why more places don’t do it, quite frankly.”

This feature may be short-lived for both practices, however: the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) reported that none of the dentists’ offices are licensed by the SLA and are not allowed to serve wine, even if it is free.

Practices that would like to offer this service need to complete an alcohol permit application and pay a fee of $38.00 in order to stay licensed for three years.

The problem isn’t just limited to dental offices in New York City, though: one office in Houston, Texas, came under fire for offering beer and wine to its clients, too. Floss Dental owner Dr. Clint Herzog said the idea was to calm “nervous” patients.

Dr. Greg Condrey, president of the Greater Houston Dental Society, referred to the free alcohol in the waiting room as a “marketing gimmick” that “cheapens” dentistry.

However, there are greater concerns than marketing when it comes to offering alcohol to patients, namely related to patient health.

Drinking alcohol can affect blood clotting and depress the nervous system; it can also speed up your heart rate and induce arrhythmias if your heart is beating irregularly. If this type of arrhythmia leads to a clot, it can cause a stroke.

The other concern is, of course, related to dental health. Despite a report published this year saying that red wine can reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth, it still can cause a cavity when used heavily. Most adults have at least one cavity already, and those cavities can lead to tooth loss; at least 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth.

Additionally, red wine can stain teeth, due to the acids contained within it that can cause a breakdown in tooth enamel.

For patients who experience anxiety before dental visits, there are other alternatives that are much safer. Dentists can use nitrous oxide or methods such as sedation dentistry, which relies on medications like Valium or IV drugs.