At the end of this post you will find some research and a list of benefits attributed to cranberry juice and green tea. It’s easy to imagine drinking cranberry juice or green tea will be good for oral health, but before you begin, consider the effect of beverages (healthy or unhealthy) on saliva and its ability to repair and strengthen teeth.
Strong teeth are packed with minerals, but these minerals leach out as we eat or drink. Fortunately saliva protects teeth from weakness, because it has the ability to immediately replace any minerals that have been drawn out from the enamel. Saliva is a super-concentrated solution of the minerals needed to rebuild teeth. These minerals diffuse into the tooth as soon as they reach its surface and travel through to repair any weak areas. This process takes about 20-30 minutes to complete, and it can only occur in alkaline conditions and where there is an adequate flow of healthy saliva (which is why acidic and dry mouths are problematic for oral health).
Sipping beverages causes disruption of this natural healing process and this is why drinks (especially acidic ones) are a problem for teeth. Before saliva has been given time to replace minerals lost from the first sip, another attack causes additional damage. Even water dilutes saliva and interferes with this natural repair process, no matter the pH of the water or it’s mineral content (since it cannot duplicate the super-saturated minerals in saliva). For oral health, keep drinks to meal times and give your teeth time to interact with saliva as often as possible – especially in the afternoon, when it’s at premium quality.
When you read the attributes of green tea and cranberries, it’s important to know the difference between healthy and infected biofilms. Healthy biofilm is a covering that naturally protects tooth enamel from abrasion, chemical, and thermal damage. Mouth conditions influence the kind of bacteria in biofilm, and acidic conditions promote acid-loving bacteria like Strep.mutans. Infection by Strep. mutans grows biofilm into a thick layer known as plaque, and this acid-producing film is responsible for gum and tooth damage. For mouth health we need to promote a healthy biofilm, not work to eradicate it. Perhaps the best way is to keep acidic foods and drinks (including healthy juices and teas) to meal times, and finish each meal or snack with xylitol to alkalize the mouth. This habit prevents exposure to acidity and promotes a healthy biofilm. Xylitol feeds healthy probiotic bacteria, encourages a flow of saliva, and makes harmful plaque slippery and less acidic.
When you read the studies, you will see that cranberry juice and green tea can help remove biofilm. This may help reduce the burden in an infected mouth, but it does not translate into oral health. Cranberries may have uses, but not as a cranberry rinse, where its acidity could cause serious erosion. Remember teeth devoid of biofilm can be sensitive, weak, and experience recession and cavities. In the green tea studies you may read of a large group of men who had benefits from drinking green tea. It would be interesting to know if women experience the same results, or do they develop sensitivity and recession? My hunch is there are differences in saliva quality and we need to give more gender-specific recommendations.
So enjoy cranberries and green tea, but try to keep drinks to mealtimes whenever possible, and always protect teeth with Zellie’s mints and gum!
Cranberries (some general facts)
Cranberries (some study facts)
Green tea: (some general facts)
Green tea: (some study facts)
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