What if you could not only prevent cavities with a safe and natural substance, but do it in style, too?

If that sounds good to you, drink up--because the latest research finds that the polyphenols in red wine can actually slow or stop the process that leads to tooth decay.

Before I get into the details, let's take a look at that process--because most people blame sugar.

And they're right--but sugar is just the starting point. Sugar is actually fuel for bacteria in your mouth, which use it to create glucans, which then form a sticky coating on your teeth.

It's so sticky that bacteria cling to it as they create the acid that causes decay--kind of like enemy soldiers trying to climb and breach a castle wall.

The polyphenols in wine are like the boiling water castle defenders would dump down the wall to stop the invaders, because they can stop those bacteria cold.

Researchers say the polyphenols block a molecule made by the bacteria, which in turn stops them from creating those glucans.

Even better, the polyphenols don't harm all the good bacteria in your mouth, according to researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.

Cranberries also contain the tooth-protecting polyphenols--but while wine is good for us anyway, cranberry juice is loaded with extra sugars... and that's not going to do favors to any part of your body.

The researchers say they want to isolate those tooth-protecting polyphenols and add them to a mouthwash. They don't actually encourage anyone to drink red wine, because it can stain teeth.

But personally, staining is a risk I'll accept--especially since I'll drink red wine whether it's good for my teeth or not. After all, wine and other forms of booze can protect your heart, brain and may even extend your life.

Next to all that, protecting your teeth is just a side benefit.

While I'm on the topic, here's a quick tip: Don't brush right after drinking. That's when the acids in wine are at their strongest, and brushing right away can actually damage the very enamel you're trying to protect.

Wait at least an hour before brushing--and when you do, use a fluoride-free paste.