For years, green tea lovers have been raking in the positive news about health benefits the beverage provides. Now, new research shows that black tea aficionados stand to benefit from the drink’s protective effect against dental decay.
A lot of research in the past two decades has focused on green tea’s antioxidant effect on heart health, cancer prevention and oral health. In one of the few studies that examined black tea and its potential benefits, researchers have now found that frequent consumption of black tea can reduce cavities.
“We found that the polyphenols [chemicals that act as powerful antioxidants] are beneficial to oral health in the sense that they inhibited the growth in acid production of the bacteria that causes cavities,” says the study’s lead researcher, Christina D. Wu, PhD, professor of periodontics at the College of Dentistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Wu says that black tea also reduces the stickiness of the bacteria accumulated in dental plaque, which produces acid and ultimately dissolves the enamel of the tooth and causes cavities.
Tea comes from the plant called Camellia sinensis. Tea leaves are picked and grouped according to the way they are processed. Black tea is fermented but green tea is not. While green tea is more popular in such Asian countries as Japan and China, black tea is more common in Western countries, such as the popular Lipton teas in the United States.
Although it is known that green tea is rich in polyphenols, the researchers say that they also found the beneficial compounds in black tea, along with limited amount of floride, which is also known to fight cavities.
“The major component is the polyphenol compounds that affect bacteria growth,” says Wu. “Once the growth is affected, naturally the bacteria make less acid. But more research is needed to confirm this.”
Researchers also found that rinsing the mouth with black tea (20 mg/ml) 5 times for 30 seconds prevented the plaque bacteria growth and acid production. But it also showed that one 30-second rinse did not show the effect. “It appears that frequency is better, but it has to be confirmed by future studies,” says Wu. “One thing that is sure is that tea is a healthy drink, a functional food for oral health.”
Wu points out that the only way to remove the dental plaque is by brushing. “Brushing is the best way to remove dental plaques,” says Wu. “Rinsing is an adjunct for prevention in cutting down the bacteria in the mouth.”
James Wefel, PhD, professor and director of the Dows Institute for Dental Research at the University of Iowa’s College of Dentistry in Iowa City, says that the findings highlight the importance of using natural products to approach modern health problems.
“These findings point to a possible mechanism that polyphenols in the tea affect the microbiology so it affects the growth and acid production of the bacteria,” says Wefel.
But Wefel notes that the long-term effect of drinking black tea is still unknown. “There is hope that a common, everyday product may have some useful results in terms of the [cavity prevention] process,” says Wefel. “But more research is needed before we know for sure.”
Article By: Hong Mautz, Medical Writer