According to a study published by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a huge number of adults suffer from dental erosion at least once in their lifetime.
The nutritional value of your daily diet has a great influence on your oral health. Eating lots of processed sugar and acidic food can trigger various oral problems. And if you think those diet soda and sugar-free ice creams are a healthier alternative, you’re wrong.
Coming to address the burning question, no, brewed tea isn’t even nearly as bad as coffee, sodas, packaged sports drinks, and juices. However, tea contains a substance called Tannin which causes tooth discoloration.
Whether tea will have negative effects on your teeth depends on two factors: what type of tea you consume and how.
Table of Contents
Type of Tea You Choose Matters
Generally, foods with the pH value (measurement of acidity level) of less than 5.5 can cause dental erosion. The dental experts of King’s College, London found out that teas like lemon tea, rosehip tea, packaged ice tea, ginger tea, and black tea are loaded with teeth eroding acids.
Compared to this, a fresh brew of regular tea and even green tea are far less harmful. The high level of antioxidants and flavonoids present in green tea greatly reduces the chances of oral cancer. Even black tea is a better option as its erosive effect to similar to that of water, zero. However, if you need to know the better option between black and green tea, go for the greens.
How You Consume It Matters Even More
Tea is controversial mainly because people load this beautiful natural drink with sugar and milk. Like why? First of all, it is not even the right way to consume tea. Secondly and most importantly, additives like these can greatly reduce the health benefits of tea. You really don’t have to worry about your tooth health while drinking tea as long as you drink it in its natural form.
Clinical lecturer Dr. Saoirse O’Toole from King’s College said: “It is well known that an acidic diet is associated with erosive tooth wear, however, our study has shown the impact of the way in which acidic food and drinks are consumed.”.
Slowly sipping lemon tea or a sugary, milky, spiced tea between meals or while traveling can quicken up enamel erosion. It’s much safer to finish your tea at a normal speed and not hold it in your mouth before swallowing. Edmond R. Hewlett, DDS, professor of UCLA School of Dentistry advises drinking acidic hot and cold beverages with a straw to avoid longer contact of the harmful contents of the drink.
Common Tooth Problems Caused by Tea
Tea is the second most popular beverage in the world. 31% of total American population consumes 2 to 3 cups of tea per day. While coffee is more notorious for tooth discoloration, according to Jordan Kirk of White Glo, tea could be just as bad. He says “Tooth enamel is naturally porous and can absorb the tannins in tea, leading to unpleasant brown discoloration of your teeth,”.
The stronger your brew is, the more likely it is to cause discoloration. It is because strong tea contains higher levels of stain-causing substances like theaflavins, theabrownins, and thearubigins. Theaflavins and thearubigins are the key components of tannin, the ultimate discoloring agent found in tea. Tannin boosts plaque buildup on your teeth, which ultimately leads to yellow staining.
To reduce the risk of discoloration, rinse your mouth with cold water or apply a wet brush on your teeth after drinking beverages like tea, coffee, and wine. Also, use a straw while drinking your beverage to cut down the staining effect. You should brush twice daily for at least two minutes with a teeth whitening toothpaste and toothbrush if you are already noticing yellow teeth. However, if the staining is too serious, you should immediately consult a dentist.
Tooth Erosion and Sensitivity
Any drink loaded with refined sugar and citric acid can cause microscopic cracks in your teeth. What’s even worse is the packaged iced-tea. It has two times more sugar and erosive acids than homemade tea. Consuming sugar-loaded tea on a daily basis can soften your teeth by making the enamel wear away, resulting in cavity. You can even lose your teeth at an early age due to this.
It doesn’t stop here. These insanely high amounts of sugar and acid will eventually create bigger cracks in your teeth, thus exposing the nerve endings or root areas of teeth. As a result, you will experience a sharp pain every time you drink something hot or cold. This is called tooth sensitivity.
If you are already going through these issues but unable to quit tea, switch to an unsweetened, lighter brew. And if you are in a mood for herbal tea, choose green tea over lemon tea.
For tooth sensitivity, your dentist may suggest using a toothpaste that is high on fluoride. You should also floss your teeth regularly, preferably with an oral irrigator to avoid further damage. Visit your dentist if the problem persists for too long. Fillings, fluoride varnishes and lasers are common treatment methods for severe tooth decay and sensitivity.
Positive Effects of Tea on Teeth
However, it is wrong to conclude that tea has only negative effects on teeth. This is not true at all. As long as you are drinking fresh brews without sugar and milk, avoiding additives like lemon in your tea, you’ll be fine. In fact, according to a report by the University of Illinois College of Dentistry, black tea can significantly reduce the growth and even kill cavity-causing bacteria.
Both black and green tea to prevent the buildup of dental plaque on your teeth.
Green tea can suppress the growth of oral bacteria responsible for plaque, bad breath, and gum diseases.
All types of teas, especially green tea is rich in antioxidants that help prevent tooth erosion. Other than this, antioxidants are also vital for ensuring good cardiovascular health, healthy skin and preventing type-2 diabetes.
Polyphenols found in tea also lessen the symptoms of Gingivitis or gum inflammation. Having a cup of unsweetened tea as a part of your daily diet may offer tons of health benefits.
The Bottom Line
Now you are confused, aren’t you? There are some legit studies showing the bad effects of tea on teeth. But on the other hand, tea is good for your teeth and overall health too according to other studies.
Well, both are equally true. Tea is a far better and safer option than sodas and packaged juices. It offers tons of benefits when you consume it without adulteration and don’t overdrink it. Remember, moderation is the key.
There’s no such thing as bad food. You won’t get a heart attack or go toothless if you take a few sips of even those much-dreaded soda once in a while. Notice the operative words here: “once in a while”, “few sips”. Hope this helps.
Further Reading: Is Green Tea Really Staining Your Teeth?