By William I. Lengeman III
An apple a day might help keep the doctor at bay but when it comes to cutting back on visits to the dentist you might want to reach for a cup of tea. Don’t go rushing out to replace your toothbrush with a tea cup just yet, but there is research that indicates that green and black tea might contribute to better dental health, not to mention improved oral well-being, in general.
As early as 1992, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, began looking into the possibility that certain compounds in green tea could guard against Streptococcus mutans – a bacteria that helps initiate dental caries. Researchers found that flavor compounds called hexanes were largely responsible for this effect.
More recent research has found that the fluoride content in tea may help protect tooth enamel and that tea’s flavonoids will tend to inhibit plaque-forming tendencies of oral bacteria. Researchers at New York University’s Dental Center found that hamsters given black tea extract developed 63.7 percent fewer cavities than hamsters given water.
A study by researchers at the University of Illinois College of Dentistry, discovered that compounds in black tea helped fight cavity-causing bacteria in dental plaque and affected an enzyme responsible for converting sugars into the material that causes plaque to adhere to teeth. The researchers estimated that more than 80 percent of tea consumed worldwide is of the black variety. These results were similar to those of an earlier Swedish study.
Other studies have found that green, black, and oolong tea extracts inhibit the growth and acid production of cavity-producing bacteria. A 2002 study, the results of which were published in the journal Nutrition, found that drinking or rinsing the mouth with green, oolong, or black tea also may help fight cavities. Researchers attribute this effect to the polyphenols in tea.
Tea lovers don’t really need another reason to put the kettle on, but the fact that tea might help keep you and your dentist happy is just one more reason to boil some water and get down to business.
Check out William’s blog, Tea Guy Speaks, for more great writing!