Readers ask, we answer

Sandy asks:

"What does drinking tea do for my smile?"

Have a question you’d like us to answer? Send it to grin@deltadental.com, and it could be featured in an upcoming issue.

Hi, Sandy! Tea — especially green tea — may provide numerous benefits to your oral and overall health.

Studies show tea may help prevent cavities by reducing the bacteria and decay-causing acid produced in your mouth. Both green and black tea also contain fluoride that can help ward off tooth decay. Using fluoridated tap water in your tea can add to the fluoride you’re getting with each sip.

Tea also has polyphenols, micronutrients from plant-based foods, that can help you avoid gum inflammation and disease. And one study showed that drinking green tea may even help combat bad breath by reducing sulfur compounds in your mouth.

Beyond the benefits to your oral health, tea — especially green tea — can be great for your whole body. It’s rich in antioxidants, which are linked to lowered risk for illnesses and diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. Research even shows that green tea may help slow the growth of certain kinds of cancer, including oral cancer.

Drinking tea can be a nice addition to an overall healthy diet that includes whole grains, fish, fruits and vegetables. Just be aware that:

Tea can stain your teeth because it contains tannin, the yellowish or brownish substance found in plants that gives tea its color. Brushing your teeth or rinsing your mouth after drinking tea can help reduce staining.

Adding excess lemon, sugar or honey to hot or iced tea can also erode your teeth and make you more prone to cavities. For the best health benefits, unsweetened or sugar-free tea is the way to go.