Tea Effective in Reducing Dental Cavities
People who regularly drink or rinse their mouths with green, oolong, or black tea may have fewer cavities than those who do not, according to a study in Nutrition (2002;18:443–4). This study suggests that the most common infectious disease worldwide may be prevented with habitual use of tea.
Tea is the most popular beverage consumed in the world, second only to water. Green, oolong, and black teas all come from the same plant (Camellia sinensis), differing only in how the plant is processed. Green tea is unfermented, oolong tea is partially fermented, and black tea is fully fermented, a process which affects the taste of the tea.
While tea contains several different chemicals that have health-promoting properties, scientists believe that a specific group of compounds called polyphenols are responsible for the cavity-reducing effect. Each of the three tea types contains polyphenols. Tea also contains fluoride, but scientists do not believe that the amount of fluoride is high enough to account for the reduction in cavities.
Several human and animal studies have evaluated the effects of tea on dental cavities. The amount of tea consumed in the human studies was 3 to 5 cups per day. One study in children showed that drinking 1 cup of green tea immediately following a meal significantly reduced the incidence of cavities. Another study showed that rinsing with Chinese green tea while brushing the teeth also reduced plaque formation and cavities. The dental benefits of tea appear to be unrelated to the way in which tea is introduced into the mouth, as either drinking the tea or rinsing with it produced fewer cavities in children and adults.
Tea may have other health benefits in addition to preventing cavities. A study published earlier this year showed that those who drank 3 cups a day of black tea had a 43% reduction in risk of heart attacks. Another study showed that individuals who drank either green, oolong, or black tea had significantly higher bone mineral density than did non-tea drinkers. Bone mineral density increased with increasing duration of tea consumption.
One should be aware that tea naturally contains caffeine, although the amount present in one cup is about one-quarter of that in a regular cup of coffee. Decaffeinated teas are commercially available, but it is unknown if these teas would have the same effect on preventing cavities.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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