green-teaForget the apples. A cup or two of green tea a day will keep both the doctor and the dentist away! While it’s well known that green tea is good for your heart and promotes weight loss, did you know that it’s also the beverage of choice for keeping your smile healthy?

All true teas — including black, green and oolong varieties — are made from the buds or leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant (herbal teas are made from herbs). However, when it comes to making green tea, the leaves of the plant are minimally processed and are not fermented — as they are in most other varieties — so they retain more beneficial properties than other forms of tea. These benefits include higher levels of antioxidants (which help fight cancer, heart disease and possibly even the aging process itself), and this variety of tea is thought to help ward off obesity and lower cholesterol.

Not surprisingly, many of the same properties that benefit your body also help improve the health of your mouth , but one of the main perks for your teeth when it comes to green tea is not what it is, but what it isn’t. Drinking green tea instead of sodas and fruit juices can greatly improve the longevity of your teeth. Soda and fruit juices are highly acidic and contribute to the breakdown of the surface of your teeth. Green tea, on the other hand, is as gentle to your teeth as tap water.

This is a big deal, as the erosive nature of sodas and fruit drinks wear away at your enamel, which serves as your teeth’s protective covering. Of course, we all need to knock back a flavored beverage every once in a while, but swapping out an acidic drink for green tea can really save your enamel, which is your first and main line of defence against everything from cavities to tooth decay.

Green tea has more going on for it than what it’s not.

So, how good is green tea for the health of your teeth and mouth? A study in the Journal of Periodontology found that those who regularly drank green tea had superior periodontal health than those who consumed the tea less often. There are several reasons for this, but one of the biggest is the fact that, like a good scrubbing with your toothbrush, green tea helps fight plaque.

Green tea contains polyphenols — a unique kind of antioxidant that’s thought to hold substantial health benefits — which work to break down the bacteria that cause plaque and cavities. Unchecked plaque can lead to gingivitis, which can progress to periodontal disease, also known as periodontitis.

Luckily, green tea helps ward off both these diseases, too. Its ample supply of catechins — a kind of polyphenol — works to limit and regress physical inflammations. This is good news for people with either gingivitis or periodontal disease, as inflammation of the gums is a common symptom of both ailments. Periodontitis is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults, so by helping to combat the disease, green tea is doing more than improving your grin, it’s literally saving your smile itself.

But green tea can do more than help keep your teeth in their sockets. One of the most serious potential side effects of periodontitis occurs when bacteria associated with the disease enter the blood stream and travel to other areas of the body. Evidence suggests that this may lead to ailments as serious as heart disease and diabetes, so by helping combat periodontitis, the catechins in green tea may also be working to save your life. We must stress, however, that drinking green tea is no substitute for a proper dental hygiene, and if you think you have gingivitis or periodontal disease, make an appointment to see your dentist right away.

Green tea is more than the key to healthy smile. It’s like liquid medicine for your mouth and body, but because it tastes so good, you’ll never have to hold your nose!

Src: BBC News. “Tea Good For Teeth.” May 22, 2001. (Sept. 11, 2011)
Edgar, Julie. “Health Benefits of Green Tea.” WebMD. 2011. (Sept. 28, 2011)
Higdon, Jane. “Micronutrient Information Center.” Linus Pauling Institute. Jan. 2005 (Sept. 11, 2011)
Kushiyama, Mitoshi, et al. “Relationships Between Intake of Green Tea and Periodontal Disease.” Journal of Periodontology Online. Mar. 2009. (Sept. 11, 2011)
Marshall, Jessica. “Green Tea May Strengthen Your Teeth.” Discovery News. April 19, 2010. (Sept. 11, 2011)
Science Daily. “Drink Green Tea for Healthy Teeth and Gums.” Science Daily. Mar. 13, 2009. (Sept. 28, 2011)