Do you have Green tea on your grocery list? If so, you are not alone… it is heavily marketed for its potential health benefits ranging from weight loss to cancer prevention, heart health and more. Recent scientific research supports what Asian medical practitioners have believed for nearly 5000 years: many of the reported general health benefits of tea are genuine, and regular consumption may even improve your oral health!
According to an article that appeared in the Journal of Periodontology, green tea promotes healthy teeth and gums because it contains antioxidants called catechins that interfere with the body’s inflammatory response to the oral bacteria responsible for periodontal disease. Evidence suggests that green tea may have an anti-cavity benefit as well, but interestingly, researchers at the University Of Illinois School Of Dentistry have reported that drinking black tea may also lead to fewer cavities. Black tea seems to inhibit the formation of dental plaque by suppressing the ability of decay-causing bacteria to grow, stick to the teeth and produce the destructive acids that cause decay. This is great news, since about 80% of all the tea consumed in Western countries is the Black Oolong variety.
A few important cautionary notes are in order before incorporating more tea into your diet:
- When sugar is added to the tea, the anti-cavity effect may be lessened or negated – if you must use a sweetener, consider using Xylitol which is a sugar substitute that has its own anti-bacterial effect.
- Preparation is important! Releasing the catechins for maximum antioxidant benefit requires that tea be brewed and steeped for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Tea stains! Like most pigmented liquids, tea can leave a brown stain behind on your teeth. Rinse with water after drinking tea to keep stain to a minimum, and consider using a whitening toothpaste. Remember that regular professional cleanings and perhaps a simple cosmetic whitening procedure available in the dental office can keep your smile looking its best!
Alternative medicine fads come and go, and it can be a challenge to differentiate between the ones that have some real health benefit from those that have little value or may actually be dangerous. As a general rule, it is a good idea to verify claims about products and practices with reliable sources and research before incorporating any supplement or practice into your diet or self care routine. Your dental team is here to help, and a great resource for all of your oral health questions.
Enjoy the many benefits of a perfectly brewed glass of ice tea (or a cup) this summer … with all of its many benefits, and we look forward to hearing from you!