cup of tea and teapotSure, tea is tasty, and as we noted before, at least some teas – green, in particular – may help support healthy gums.

Now, new research suggests that tea may also help boost microbial diversity in the mouth.

Your mouth is loaded with billions of microbes from hundreds of species. In fact, it’s the second most diverse microbial community in your body. Many of those microbes are helpful; others, not so much. Ideally, you have enough of the good balancing out the harmful. When that balance is disrupted, infections like tooth decay and gum disease become more likely.

For the study, mouthwash samples were taken from nearly 1000 participants. The authors then evaluated the oral flora relative to each participant’s tea and coffee consumption. They didn’t find that coffee had much of an impact, but tea certainly did.

As a matter of fact, the more tea consumed, the more impact on the microbiome. There were more beneficial bacteria from several species. There were fewer harmful bacteria from other species.

Thus, the authors concluded,

Tea-driven changes to the oral microbiome may contribute to previously observed associations between tea and oral and systemic diseases, including cancers.

But while this study didn’t find a significant effect on the oral microbiome among coffee drinkers, other research has suggested that it, too, might have a role to play in oral health. For instance, one meta-analysis published last fall found

an inverse association between high coffee consumption and the risk of oral and pharyngeal (upper throat) cancers, which indicates that coffee may have a protective role against these cancers.

Other research, which we’ve blogged about before, suggests that coffee’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory factors may help reduce the gingival bleeding and bone loss associated with gum disease.

This isn’t to say you should start chugging either beverage to support your oral health. As ever, your best insurance remains a nutrient-dense, whole foods-based diet and excellent home hygiene. But if you enjoy tea or coffee, you can know that, aside from some possible staining, they seem to be largely tooth- and gum-friendly beverages.

That said, with tea, fluoride can be a concern. To learn more about this and get resources for choosing teas wisely, see our earlier post.

Image by mendhak

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