If you wander through your local health foods store or Asian market, you’ll likely come across a section full of teas that claim to provide all kinds of health benefits. There are slimming teas, teas that offer clarity, healing, or caffeine-free energy, and, of course, there are teeth that are supposed to help your oral health. But do these really work? We picked up a “Healthy Tooth Tea” to examine its properties and claims to see if it would really be good for your oral health and reduce your need for reconstructive dentistry.
The variety we selected was the wulong-type tea. The package claims that there are other varieties available, including black tea, jasmine tea, and green tea. In the wulong tea, natural jasmine and wulong tea make up 99.6% of the ingredients. The remaining 0.4% is supplied by extracts of honeysuckle flower and Glycyrrhiza uralensis (sometimes called Chinese licorice).
The box claims that the product is derived from natural sources and contains no sodium, no caffeine, no preservatives, and no artificial color.
A certificate inside the package notes that the product can maintain the ecological equilibrium of the mouth, increase your immune function, and reduce gum disease, stomatitis, and cavities.
The certificate inside the package seems to provide an impressive authority for its oral health claims. Supposedly the Second World Congress on Preventive Dentistry, this certificate has a signature from the cochairman of the congress and is dated from late May 1989.
We’re not entirely certain what the certificate means because although the name of the organization is in English, as is the line “This is to certify that,” the rest of the certificate is in Chinese, even on the English side of the certificate.
Currently, the World Congress on Preventive Dentistry is being hosted by the International Association for Dental Research, so certification by this organization would certainly be impressive. If we knew what the certificate was for!
Before we get too much into the claims of the “Healthy Tooth Tea,” it’s important to note that pretty much all tea is healthy tooth tea. Tea can provide many good oral health benefits. It can suppress inflammation, and it can inhibit the breakdown of starches into sugars by oral bacteria. Tea also tends to have high levels of fluoride, which, combined with the fluoride either naturally in water or added to water can help protect teeth.
So, just on this basis, we expect that the Healthy Tooth Tea will probably not be harmful to teeth, especially if consumed without sugar (though you might add milk to counterstaining).
But what about the other ingredients? As with many traditional remedies or natural supplements, there is limited scientific evidence on this question. Honeysuckle has been shown to have some antibacterial effects. Chinese licorice has a possible anti-inflammatory mechanism.
The tea brews up as a pretty standard oolong tea. Moderate green. Kind of acrid. No hint of the sweetness or flavor you’d expect from Chinese licorice. But beware: no matter what the box says, this tea definitely contains caffeine, so maybe you don’t want to drink it just before brushing your teeth in the evening.