Counting Your Beans and Leaves

Posted on March 15, 2011 in Dental Articles


For thousands of years, tea, well-known for its health benefits, has been China’s national drink. Recent research suggests drinking tea may help prevent everything from cavities to Parkinson’s disease. The benefits of tea consumption may extend throughout the body, experts believe.

In recent years, a new phenomenon of cafes offering coffee has bloomed. Apart from their teeth staining properties, the benefits of tea and coffee extends beyond what is commonly known about their antioxidant and pain-relieving properties.

Coffee has provided another wake-up call, this time at the 230th meeting of the American Chemical Society in Washington, D.C. Joe Vinson, a professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton, told the gathering that the brewed beverage is far and away the No. 1 source of antioxidants and contains hundreds of pain-relieving and antibacterial compounds. In lab tests, researchers in Italy recently found that coffee’s antibacterials slow the growth of Streptococcus mutans, the culprit in tooth decay. Coffee also contains compounds that keep bacteria from sticking to tooth enamel.

PictureA study by Goeteborg University, where participants rinsed with tea for one minute 10 times per day, showed that the more people rinsed, the more their plaque and bacteria levels fell. Black tea can help fight cavities and prevent gum disease, according to research presented at the annual American Society for Microbiology meeting. The beverage interferes with harmful bacteria in the mouth that forms dental plaque, said Christine Wu, professor of periodontics at the UIC College of Dentistry, who led the study, together with researchers from University of Iowa and Gothenburg University, Sweden. “If sequenced properly between meals and normal oral hygiene, drinking black tea could reduce the number of cavities and prevent periodontal disease,” Wu said.
Dental plaque contains more than 300 species of bacteria that adhere to tooth surfaces and produce cavity-causing acid. Plaque is also a leading cause of gum disease. A specific element of black tea, called polyphenols, killed or suppressed cavity-causing bacteria from either growing or producing acid.
The same regimen that can reduce the risk of heart disease and the onset of diabetes – a balanced diet, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight – are good for your gums and teeth, too, according to a study published in the August edition of the Journal of Periodontology.
Researchers from Case Western Reserve University examined data from 12,110 people found that the people who exercised, had healthy eating habits and maintained a normal weight were 40 percent less likely to develop periodontitis, a gum infection that can result in loss of teeth.
People who had two out of three of these healthy habits had a 29 percent better chance of avoiding periodontitis, the study’s authors said, and 16 percent in those who had just one of the healthy habits. Conquering periodontal disease, according to the researchers, might mean more than just targeting the disease but addressing multiple risk behaviors. And, of course, researchers advised that regular tooth brushing and the use of dental floss are instrumental in maintaining good oral hygiene.
Advances in dental medicine have permitted more people to keep their teeth as they grow older. Understanding the underlying ways to prevent gum diseases has become increasingly important, according to the Case Western researchers. More than 30 percent of the U.S. population suffers from periodontitis, an infection of the gums that can lead to heart disease, diabetes and preterm labor.