Teatime for a Healthy Smile: The Oral Health Benefits of Green Tea

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There must always be humor! Let’s get this par-tea started.

Some may think of pumpkin spice and football as we look forward to fall. Sweatshirts and a warm cup of joe or tea can bring up good memories. But the beauty of both coffee and tea is that you can have them iced, which may have helped us get through this grueling summer.

Coffee is popular and the most traded commodity, second only to oil, and tea is the second most-consumed beverage globally, next to water. In the United States, 159 million people consume tea every day.1

Legend has it that tea was discovered in 2737 BC by a Chinese emperor. He was sipping his boiled water when a wind blew some leaves from a nearby tree into his bowl, and voila, there it began.2

Tea isn’t just for consumption ‒ it has a multitude of practices. Dissolve a black tea bag in hot water and soak a dirty pan to get rid of burnt spots. You could make potpourri, dye fabric, or use a lavender tea bag as a car air freshener.

For centuries, tea has been known to have positive health effects. The grandma’s recommendation of honey in tea as an elixir for a sore throat seems to have held the test of time. Honey has high antioxidant activity and, combined with the benefits of tea, makes it an excellent choice.3

Antioxidant Benefits of Tea

Tea is filled with flavonoids naturally that have antioxidant properties. The flavonoids help to neutralize free radicals, which contribute to chronic disease.4 Some tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that impacts nerve impulses in the brain. It releases neurotransmitters, one of which is gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).5

GABA helps to regulate mood, and low levels can increase anxiety and sleep-related disorders. Chamomile tea has a chemical component called apigenin that can increase the effects of GABA and has been thought of as a relaxing drink before bed. However, studies indicate the best results for improved sleep can only be gained through higher doses of apigenin, which can not be achieved through drinking chamomile tea alone.6

Chamomile supplements, in the form of concentrated extracts, are the most effective way to achieve the doses needed to improve sleep quality and quantity. Nevertheless, chamomile tea does provide some level of relaxation.6 Bonus points for chamomile research shows it contributes to wound healing faster than corticosteroids.7

This brings me to another popular tea – green tea – found on menus, coffee shops, and grocery store shelves across the United States. Did you know it has abundant benefits for oral health?

Benefits of Green Tea

The chemical composition of a green tea plant includes proteins, carbohydrates in the form of fructose, sucrose, and glucose, vitamins B, C, and E, caffeine, carotenoids, minerals, and trace elements. Green tea is one of the least processed types of tea. It contains the most antioxidants and beneficial polyphenols; the most common are flavonols, also referred to as catechins. Their functions are grand: decrease blood cholesterol, body fat reduction, cancer prevention effect, tooth decay prevention, antibacterial effect, antioxidant, reduction in high blood pressure, and a halitosis preventer.10-13

Polyphenols have been shown to have the ability to neutralize free radicals in the body – the hydrogen-releasing property of catechin results in a scavenging effect.11,14 Studies have shown that there are increased levels of biomarkers for tissue damage induced by reactive oxygen species in periodontal patients relative to controls.15 Depending upon the brand, two or three cups of green tea equals anywhere from 240 to 320 milligrams of polyphenols.16

An in vitro study of catechins showed the restriction of colonization of bacteria such as Porophryomonas gingivalis, Prevotella intermedia, and Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans and that green tea played a supportive role in the maintenance of periodontal health.17

Oral Health Benefits of Green Tea

In a study of dental students looking at the effects of green tea vs. black tea, the green tea drinkers had minimal plaque accumulation in comparison with the black tea drinkers.18 There is also support that a continuous application of tea polyphenols in green tea had an inhibitory effect on the production of toxic end metabolites of P. gingivalis, and for caries reduction, catechins can play a supportive role.19

One cup of green tea can inhibit the virulence factor of Streptococcus mutants through irreversible damage to the bacterial plasma membrane.16 Black or green tea has been shown to restrain the enzymatic activity of S. mutans amylase on tooth structure, preventing demineralization.20

Green tea can also help with halitosis. Volatile sulfide compounds give mouths that pungent smell by proteolytic reactions, mainly by anaerobic gram-negative bacteria that consume sulfur-containing substrates such as food, saliva, blood, and epithelial cells. Green tea can reduce halitosis by suppressing anaerobic bacteria and eliminating the production of VSCs.21

A recommendation for smokers who struggle to kick the habit could be to consume green tea. Smoking reduces many salivary enzymes’ activity, compromising the protection against oxidative damage.22 Tobacco smoke has reactive oxygen species, including superoxide, hydroxyl radical/hydrogen peroxide. The catechins present in green tea are capable of scavenging.23

Did I hear you say, “But the stain?” Perhaps recommend a green tea extract or a straw. Remember there are caffeine-free options for green tea and, of course, precautions. For patients on anticoagulant therapy or bleeding disorder, patients should consult with their physician. In addition, consultation is warranted for patients with iron deficiency anemia and kidney and stomach problems, among other health conditions.16

Antioxidants are terrific for overall health, including the mouth. As we move into a bright, progressive future in dentistry, capitalizing on our role as health care providers, nutritional suggestions should be in our wheelhouse. As I sign off, I send you a cup of positivi-tea.

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  1. Nonalcoholic Beverage Consumption Among Adults: United States, 2015-2018 [NCHS Data Brief No. 376]. (2020, September). Centers for Disease Control And Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db376.htm
  2. World History of Tea. (n.d.). American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies. https://www.aisls.org/resources/teaching-about-sri-lanka/teaching-about-tea/world-history-of-tea/
  3. Dżugan, M., Tomczyk, M., Sowa, P., Grabek-Lejko, D. Antioxidant Activity as Biomarker of Honey Variety. Molecules. 2018; 23(8): 2069. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/327132549_Antioxidant_Activity_as_Biomarker_of_Honey_Variety
  4. Rudrapal, M., Khairnar, S.J., Khan, J., et al. Dietary Polyphenols and Their Role in Oxidative Stress-Induced Human Diseases: Insights Into Protective Effects, Antioxidant Potentials and Mechanism(s) of Action.Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2022;13: 806470. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2022.806470
  5. White, D.J., de Klerk, S., Woods, W., et al. Anti-Stress, Behavioural and Magnetoencephalography Effects of an L-Theanine-Based Nutrient Drink: A Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Trial. Nutrients. 2016; 8(1):53. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4728665/
  6. Zick, S.M., Wright, B.D., Sen, A., Arnedt, J.T. Preliminary Examination of the Efficacy and Safety of a Standardized Chamomile Extract for Chronic Primary Insomnia: A Randomized Placebo-controlled Pilot Study. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011; 11: 78.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3198755/
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  8. Cabrera, C., Artacho, R., Giménez, R. Beneficial Effects of Green Tea – A Review. J Am Coll Nutr. 2006; 25(2): 79-99. https://cmjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1749-8546-5-13
  9. Astill, C., Birch, M.R., Dacombe, C., et al. Factors Affecting the Caffeine and Polyphenol Contents of Black and Green Tea Infusions. J Agric Food Chem. 2001; 49(11): 5340-5347. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11714326/
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  12. Syed, D.N., Afaq, F., Kweon, M.H., et al. Green Tea Polyphenol EGCG Suppresses Cigarette Smoke Condensate-induced NF-kappaB Activation in Normal Human Bronchial Epithelial Cells. Oncogene. 2007; 26(5): 673-682. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6924276_Green_tea_polyphenol_EGCG_suppresses_cigarette_smoke_condensate-induced_NF-kappaB_activation_in_normal_human_bronchial_epithelial_cells
  13. Srivastava, J.K., Shankar, E., Gupta, S. Chamomile: A Herbal Medicine of the Past with Bright Future.Mol Med Rep. 2010; 3(6): 895-901. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995283/
  14. Nugala, B., Namasi, A., Emmadi, P., Krishna, P.M. Role of Green Tea as an Antioxidant in Periodontal Disease: The Asian Paradox. J Indian Soc Periodontol. 2012; 16(3): 313-316. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23162321/
  15. Toczewska, J., Konopka, T. (2019). Activity of Enzymatic Antioxidants in Periodontitis: A Systematic Overview of the Literature.Dental and Medical Problems. 2019;56(4): 419-426. https://doi.org/10.17219/dmp/112151
  16. Greent Tea. (n.d.). Mount Sinai. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/herb/green-tea
  17. Kong, C., Zhang, H., Li, L., Liu, Z. Effects of Green Tea Extract Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) on Oral Disease-associated Microbes: A Review.Journal of Oral Microbiology. 2022;14(1): 2131117. https://doi.org/10.1080/20002297.2022.2131117
  18. Nadeem, M., Datoo, F., Ahmed, A., et al. Effects of Black Tea and Green Tea on Periodontal Health Status among Dental Students at Pakistan. International Journal of Dental Clinics. 2014; 6(4): 1-3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/282184380_Effects_of_black_tea_and_green_tea_on_periodontal_health_status_among_dental_students_at_pakistan
  19. Fournier-Larente, J., Morin, M.P., Grenier, D. Green Tea Catechins Potentiate the Effect of Antibiotics and Modulate Adherence and Gene Expression in Porphyromonas gingivalis.Archives of Oral Biology. 2016;65: 35-43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.archoralbio.2016.01.014
  20. Goswami, P., Kalita, C., Bhuyan, A.C. Anticariogenic Activity of Black Tea: An In Vivo Study.Cureus. 2023;15(5): e38460. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.38460
  21. Tahani, B., Sabzian, R. (2018). Effect ofCamellia sinensisPlant on Decreasing the Level of Halitosis: A Systematic Review. Dental Research Journal. 2018; 15(6): 379-384. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6243810/
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  23. Valavanidis, A., Vlachogianni, T., Fiotakis, K. Tobacco Smoke: Involvement of Reactive Oxygen Species and Stable Free Radicals in Mechanisms of Oxidative Damage, Carcinogenesis and Synergistic Effects with Other Respirable Particles.International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2009;6(2): 445-462. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph6020445
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Anne O. Rice, RDH, BS, has been a clinical dental hygienist for over 30 years and received her degree from Wichita State University. Her oral-systemic passion led her to found Oral Systemic Seminars in 2017, in which she now devotes her time, focus, and study primarily to dementia prevention and sleep hygiene. She completed the Bale Doneen Preceptorship for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention for Healthcare Practitioners. In 2020 Anne became certified as a Longevity Specialist with the Alzheimer’s Research and Dementia Foundation, a Fellow with The American Academy of Oral Systemic Health, and in 2021 published her manuscript Alzheimer’s Disease and Oral-Systemic Health: Bidirectional Care Integration Improving Outcomes. The perspective article was part of a research topic: Integrating Oral and Systemic Health: Innovations in Transdisciplinary Science, Health Care and Policy. Anne is a consultant with Weill Cornell Medical Center’s Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic and is a consultant with Florida Atlantic College of Medicine under the direction of Dr. Richard Isaacson.