One of the best drinks for your oral health is brewed tea. A study showed that both black and green teas were similar to water in that they had no erosive effect on tooth enamel (the outer surface of the tooth): They both resulted in dramatically less enamel loss than drinking soft drinks and fruit juices. Tea has also been shown to have other potential oral health benefits as a result of its fluoride content and in addition, tannic acid has been shown to inhibit the growth of Steptococcus mutans, one of the bacteria responsible for tooth decay.
A study published in the Journal of Periodontology showed that routine intake of green tea may also help promote healthy teeth and gums. Patients who drank at least one cup of green tea each day exhibited a reduction in bleeding on probing of the gum tissue and a reduction in the periodontal pocket depth of the gums. Researchers suggested that the natural antioxidant compounds, called catechins, that are in green tea interfere with the inflammation that results from bacteria in the mouth. Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth, and has been associated with the progression of other diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Catechins have also been shown to inhibit the growth of decay-causing bacteria.
The consumption of fruit teas is increasing in the UK but many can be more acidic than traditional teas, and can have an erosive effect on the enamel: up-to five times that of traditional tea.
Recent scientific studies are establishing the other potential health benefits of drinking tea including the maintenance of healthy blood pressure, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, reducing the risks of developing cancer, reducing the risks of developing type 2 diabetes and improving insulin sensitivity. Teas such as black tea, green tea and oolong tea contain polyphenols which researchers believe may increase insulin activity, and protect against inflammation and carcinogens. However, research suggests that some of the benefits are best experienced if you drink your tea without milk.
Other types of tea which have been found to have benefits include chamomile tea, rooibos tea and ginger tea. It is worth noting that if consumed in large or excessive quantities teas can have some side effects, and can interfere with nutrients (e.g. the absorption of iron from food) and drug action. However, the intake of a few cups of tea a day is safe.
With all the benefits of drinking tea, especially green tea, there is good reason to put the kettle on and enjoy your cup of tea…but don’t add sugar to your tea and avoid pre-packaged, bottled iced teas as they contain citric acid (which can cause erosion of the tooth surface) and high amounts of sugar.