Are Cranberry Juice and Green Tea good for Teeth?
At the end of this post you will find some research and a list of benefits attributed to cranberry juice and green tea. It’s easy to imagine drinking cranberry juice or green tea will be good for oral health, but before you begin, consider the effect of beverages (healthy or unhealthy) on saliva and its ability to repair and strengthen teeth.
Saliva Repairs Teeth
Strong teeth are packed with minerals, but these minerals leach out as we eat or drink. Fortunately saliva protects teeth from weakness, because it has the ability to immediately replace any minerals that have been drawn out from the enamel. Saliva is a super-concentrated solution of the minerals needed to rebuild teeth. These minerals diffuse into the tooth as soon as they reach its surface and travel through to repair any weak areas. This process takes about 20-30 minutes to complete, and it can only occur in alkaline conditions and where there is an adequate flow of healthy saliva (which is why acidic and dry mouths are problematic for oral health).
Sipping beverages causes disruption of this natural healing process and this is why drinks (especially acidic ones) are a problem for teeth. Before saliva has been given time to replace minerals lost from the first sip, another attack causes additional damage. Even water dilutes saliva and interferes with this natural repair process, no matter the pH of the water or it’s mineral content (since it cannot duplicate the super-saturated minerals in saliva). For oral health, keep drinks to meal times and give your teeth time to interact with saliva as often as possible – especially in the afternoon, when it’s at premium quality.
Biofilm is your Friend
When you read the attributes of green tea and cranberries, it’s important to know the difference between healthy and infected biofilms. Healthy biofilm is a covering that naturally protects tooth enamel from abrasion, chemical, and thermal damage. Mouth conditions influence the kind of bacteria in biofilm, and acidic conditions promote acid-loving bacteria like Strep.mutans. Infection by Strep. mutans grows biofilm into a thick layer known as plaque, and this acid-producing film is responsible for gum and tooth damage. For mouth health we need to promote a healthy biofilm, not work to eradicate it. Perhaps the best way is to keep acidic foods and drinks (including healthy juices and teas) to meal times, and finish each meal or snack with xylitol to alkalize the mouth. This habit prevents exposure to acidity and promotes a healthy biofilm. Xylitol feeds healthy probiotic bacteria, encourages a flow of saliva, and makes harmful plaque slippery and less acidic.
Now Read the Studies
When you read the studies, you will see that cranberry juice and green tea can help remove biofilm. This may help reduce the burden in an infected mouth, but it does not translate into oral health. Cranberries may have uses, but not as a cranberry rinse, where its acidity could cause serious erosion. Remember teeth devoid of biofilm can be sensitive, weak, and experience recession and cavities. In the green tea studies you may read of a large group of men who had benefits from drinking green tea. It would be interesting to know if women experience the same results, or do they develop sensitivity and recession? My hunch is there are differences in saliva quality and we need to give more gender-specific recommendations.
So enjoy cranberries and green tea, but try to keep drinks to mealtimes whenever possible, and always protect teeth with Zellie’s mints and gum!
Cranberries (some general facts)
- Cranberries are rich in antioxidants particularly proanthocyanidins, which is the compound that gives them a red color.
- Cranberry pigments can inhibit biofilm and have been reported to have antimicrobial, anti-adhesion, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Cranberry juice is often sweetened with other juices as a juice cocktail
Cranberries (some study facts)
- Studies show Cranberry extract has an effect on oral biofilm in lab experiments. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18663617
- A substance called proanthocyanidins (PAC) may affect the virulence of Streptococcus mutans and reduce decay on some tooth surfaces, compared with 10% ethanol (the control). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20234135
Green tea: (some general facts)
- Contains natural chemicals believed to offer health benefits, and has the highest concentration of catechins found in any natural food.
- Provides a source of antioxidants (including epigallocatechin 3 gallate- known as EGCG), which may help fight inflammation, especially the kind produced by cigarette smoking.
- Has a number of useful enzymes, amino acids, lipids, sterols, and minerals.
- Differs from other black teas because its leaves are minimally oxidized
- Quality varies dramatically with growing conditions and its beneficial phyto-chemicals are also affected by these factors.
- Should not be brewed with boiling water, since high temperatures disable catechins, and 160-degree water is suggested.
- Adding lemon may make the health compounds easier to absorb
- Although some say that dairy should not be added, it appears that any protein-catechin complexes are re-activated during digestion, so this is disproven.
- Green teas (particularly powdered green tea) can be a source of considerable fluoride. Here are three links to explore this subject:
Green tea: (some study facts)
- Most studies have been on animals, which is why reports state its benefits are unproven.
- A 2008 study in the journal of the Academy of General Dentistry suggests to avoid tooth erosion people should drink brewed tea. The study compared teas with juice and soda, and concluded there was less enamel loss with tea.
- Green tea may help remove biofilm from teeth and may be associated with decreased odds for tooth loss. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22226360
- A 2009 a study in the Journal of Periodontology examined 940 males, aged 49-59 and found less gum disease in men who drank green tea, and the benefits increased with the amount of tea consumed. http://www.perio.org/consumer/green-tea
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For more information on oral health and xylitol, please visit all of Dr. Ellie’s web-sites:
Zellies.com – learn more & order Zellies Xylitol Mints, Gum and Candies
Dr. Ellie.com – a great resource for learning more about oral health & Dr. Ellie
Dr. E Oral Health Coaching – articles, resources and videos to help you learn more
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