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Childhood Tea Drinking May Increase Fluorosis Risk

If cranberries are so good at keeping bacteria from sticking to the wall of the bladder (see my video Can Cranberry Juice Treat Bladder Infections?), what about keeping bacteria from sticking to other places? There is in vitro research suggesting cranberry phytonutrients may reduce adhesion of H. pylori bacteria in the wall of the stomach, so maybe cranberry phytonutrients should be given along with antibiotics to help eradicate the ulcer-causing bacteria. But hey, what about our teeth? Dental plaque is bacteria sticking to our teeth, particularly Streptococcus mutans. We’ve known that those with different drinking habitsóbe they coffee, tea, barley coffee, or wineóhave about 10 times less of these plaque bacteria. Since those are all beverages from plants, maybe phytonutrients are fighting back at plaque.

If bacteria cause plaque and cavities, why not just swish with some antibiotic solution, either synthetic or natural? There are downsides to just indiscriminately wiping out bacteria both good and bad, as I detailed in my Don’t Use Antiseptic Mouthwash video. What if we just stop the bad bugs from sticking to our teeth? There is some evidence that cranberries might affect the adhesion of bacteria to fake teeth in a petri dish, but nothing yet definitive. Green tea also appears to help prevent cavities, but that may be because of its natural fluoride content in the tea plant. I have a video about a woman who developed fluoride toxicity drinking up to the equivalent of about five dozen cups a day, but what about just regular consumption?

During the tooth development years, up to about age 9, children exposed to too much fluoride can develop dental fluorosis, a mottled discoloration of the teeth. It’s just a cosmetic issue and usually just manifests as faint white spots, but itís the main reason the EPA is reconsidering current tap water fluoridation levels. Currently, the suggested upper limit in water is two parts per million, and the mandatory upper limit is four. If you watch the above video, you’ll see that herbal teas are fine–about 100 fold under the limit–but caffeinated teas exceed the suggested limit, and decaf teas exceed the mandatory limit. Those limits are for tap water, though, so tea drinking would only pose much of a risk if drank all day long as one’s primary beverage. In terms of the dental ramifications, kids who primarily drink non-herbal tea as a source of hydration will be at risk for dental fluorosis.

What may be the best source of hydration for kids? Might tea also cause dehydration? Find the answers to these beverage-related questions in my videos Does a Drink of Water Make Children Smarter? and Is Caffeinated Tea Dehydrating?

What about all those folks that say fluoride is a poison to be avoided at all costs? I offer my brief two cents in the Q&A The Dangers of Fluoride? There are elements for which there is no safe level of exposure, though. I explore a few in my video Fukushima and Radioactivity in Seafood.

Beyond cosmetic issues, what should we eat and drink to keep our mouth healthy? See my videos Plant-Based Diets: Oral Health and Plant-Based Diets: Dental Health.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you havenít yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations†Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and More Than an Apple a Day.

Image credit: Nicole Lee via Flickr and Dozenist via Wikimedia Commons

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at


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7:37AM PDT on Sep 5, 2013

June, some kids are apparently in their cups.

7:35AM PDT on Sep 5, 2013

Oh, yes. Children should drink BEER. ;-)

2:42AM PDT on Sep 5, 2013

Thanks for the information.

6:38PM PDT on Sep 4, 2013


6:20PM PDT on Sep 3, 2013

Are you kidding me with this crap? Any child who's drinking enough tea to potentially cause white spots on their teeth has far bigger problems than a little dental disfiguration. Honest to God, some of the "nutrition" related "content" on this site is criminally stupid.

3:16AM PDT on Sep 2, 2013

thanks for info

6:12AM PDT on Sep 1, 2013

oh my goodness...I'd easily drink ten to twelve cups of green tea a day! I come from a nation of tea drinkers (Ireland), although it would be mainly ordinary black tea (most take it with milk, I've been drinking it black for years tho) that people drink, a cup of tea is always the answer to every little problem (large or small!!)

4:16AM PDT on Sep 1, 2013

Interesting, ty!

2:25AM PDT on Sep 1, 2013


1:47AM PDT on Sep 1, 2013

There are so many problems that people have with their teeth, starting with fillings and now the popularity of whitening the teeth.

I've often wondered why dental fraternity and scientists don't grow teeth in a petri dish instead of inauthentic tooth implants. It would be great if we could grow our own teeth for replacement procedures. That surely can't be a new idea ?

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