After water, tea is one of the most commonly consumed beverages in the world. There are many varieties, but most people know tea by their main classifications: black, oolong, pu-erh, green, and white. Each type comes from the same plant but are processed differently to promote varying colors, tastes, and aromas. It turns out that all tea coming from the Camellia sinensis plant may provide benefits for teeth and gums, much more so than previously thought. It looks like tea’s antioxidant properties, along with other compounds contained within the plant, may be responsible for its beneficial effects on teeth. Could tea (along with dark chocolate) be the best alternative to fluoride for fighting cavities? Let’s take a closer look.
The Benefits of Tea
Soda is consumed in large amount all throughout the world, and it’s this one beverage that is responsible for many of the cases of cavities and tooth erosion today. Not only does an average serving of soda contain roughly 17 teaspoons of refined sugar, they also contain highly erosive citric acid, a preservative compound that is more damaging to the teeth than battery acid. According to one study looking at the effects of tea on tooth erosion, tea consumption produced comparable effects of water, indicating no erosive effect.  In fact, researchers believe the antioxidants in tea may go further than water, protecting teeth and gums from oxidative damage. 
It should be noted that this study was carried out on unsweetened tea. If you’re the type that likes to add sugar, lemon, and/or milk to your tea, you may want to think again. Sugar and acid–regardless of the source–greatly impacts tooth decay and influences the development of cavities. It’s best to stick to hot or iced unsweetened tea you brew at home with loose, organic tea leaves. Be sure to stay away from prepackaged tea, as well, because these usually contain citric acid as its main preservative. It may also be wise to drink tea through a straw to minimize staining that eventually occurs following prolonged tea consumption.
Other Ways to Protect Against Tooth Erosion
As previously mentioned, one of the best ways to protect against tooth erosion is to avoid sugar and acidic foods. Sugar provides food for harmful bacteria and other compounds that eat away at the enamel, and sugar also encourages gingivitis. Incorporating antioxidant-rich foods into your diet is also a great way to protect your teeth and gums. Drink plenty of water and also ensure you’re also maintaining healthy vitamin D levels. If you are brushing your teeth with store-bought toothpaste, be sure you’re using toothpaste without fluoride, and continue flossing on a daily basis.
Do you drink tea? What kind? Also, what do you do to protect your teeth? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments!
-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM