Dental student life is full of stress with study and clinical work. Every time midterms or finals come, most of the dental students I know pound down coffee to avoid falling asleep on a textbook. Do you ever think about the cup of tea as a companion to your study? Or perhaps you’re a recovering coffee addict who has now turned to the soothing varieties of tea to get a decent caffeine fix without the jitters.
Tea is an essential beverage of sorts. It is a jolting liquid that staves away fatigue, headaches and lack of motivation. Not only does tea have health benefits, it also has fluoride and contains tannic that may keep plaque at bay.
All teas are derived from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, but different processing methods produce different types of tea. Fresh tea leaves are rich in flavonoids known as catechins. Tea leaves also contain polyphenol oxidase enzymes in separate compartments from catechins. Here’s more about some varieties you may consider…
White and Green Teas
White tea is made from buds and young leaves, which are steamed or fired to inactivate polyphenol oxidase, and then dried.
Oolong (Wulong) Teas
Tea leaves destined to become oolong teas are “bruised” to allow the release of some of the polphenol oxidase present in the leaves. The benefits of oolong tea have long been documented and is a popular supplement used by many people. It’s not perfect though so if you’re interested in finding out more about oolong tea then check out this article on oolong tea side effects.
Tea leaves destined to become black tea are fully rolled or broken to maximize the interaction between catechins and polyphenol oxidase.
Higher Quality Teas Have Lower Levels of Fluoride
Unfortunately, the tea products that contain the highest levels of fluoride also happen to be the tea products that contain the least anti-oxidants. This is because the level of anti-oxidant level in tea is lowest in old leaves (when fluoride content is at its highest), and highest in young leaves (when fluoride content is at its lowest). The fluoride content of tea has thus been proposed as an indicator of its quality: the more fluoride, the lower the anti-oxidants, and thus the lower the quality.
Tea plants accumulate fluoride in their leaves. In general, the oldest tea leaves contain the most fluoride (source). Most high quality teas are made from the bud or the first two to four leaves—the youngest leaves on the plant. Brick tea, a lower quality tea, is made from the oldest tea leaves and is often very high in fluoride. Symptoms of fluoride excess (i.e., dental and skeletal fluorosis) have been observed in Tibetan children and adults who consume large amounts of brick tea (source). Unlike brick tea, fluoride levels in green, oolong, and black teas are generally comparable to those recommended for the prevention of dental caries (cavities). Thus, daily consumption of up to one liter of green, oolong, or black tea would be unlikely to result in fluoride intakes higher than those recommended for dental health (source). The fluoride content of white tea is likely to be less than other teas, since white teas are made from the buds and youngest leaves of the tea plant. The fluoride contents of 17 brands of green, oolong and black teas are presented in the table below (source). These values do not include the fluoride content of the water used to make the tea.
Tea is the perfect alternative if you have a problem with drinking too much coffee. It has many health benefits and the stimulants from the tea may help you focus for longer periods of time. Tea is not vital for our existence but it can make a great difference in your daily activities. There is nothing a good cup of tea cannot fix so no matter what you are worried about, get a good cup of tea and it will all look easier to solve. So add unsweetened tea drinking to your daily dental routine of brushing and flossing for healthier teeth and gums.
~Krupa Patel, predental