While drinking green tea might be great for waking you up in the morning or helping you unwind after a long day at work, new research tentatively taps the delicious beverage as an effective way to fight bad breath, periodontal disease, and most impressively, oral cancer. Read on to learn about the amazing effects green tea may have on your dental health.
Green Tea Fights Oral Cancer
According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, a public service non-profit organization, oral cancer kills over 8,500 Americans and affects thousands more every year. While traditional treatment methods—chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery—can be effective, they work by targeting rapidly dividing cells; cancer cells fall into this category, of course, but so do hair follicles cells, blood cells, and cells in the intestines. The resulting side-effects can range from hair loss to near-constant nausea to leukemia-causing cell mutations.
Now, a new study by Pennsylvania State University suggests that a compound in green tea may hold the key to treating cancer while side-stepping chemotherapy’s terrible side-effects. Published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, the research found that epigallocatechin-3-gallate (or EGCG for short) in green tea may trigger a cycle that damages the mitochondria of oral cancer cells, eventually leading to “programmable cell death” while leaving healthy cells alone.
Because EGCG seems to work by “turning off” a vital protein found not just in oral cancer cells, but in nearly all cancer cells, researchers at Penn State say the discovery could lead to treatments for many kinds of cancer.
Green Tea’s Effects on Periodontal Health
As if green tea’s cancer-fighting benefits weren’t amazing enough, another study published in the Journal of Periodontology looked at the effects of green tea on periodontal disease. The study surveyed 940 Japanese men, all of whom had some signs of periodontal (gum) disease such as bleeding gums and receding gum lines, and found that almost all participants who drank a minimum of one cup of green tea per day showed improvement in gum health.
Green tea’s ability to fight periodontal disease is likely due to the antioxidant catechin, which exists naturally in green tea leaves and reduces inflammation in the body, especially inflammation caused by periodontal bacteria in the mouth. Because periodontal disease has been linked (though not causally) with heart disease, diabetes, and other dangerous non-oral diseases, this research my have implications for eliminating other afflictions as well.
Green Tea VS Bad Breath
Lastly, because green tea kills the tiny, bacterial microbes that make our breath stinky, green tea can be an effective way to fight bad breath. According to a study by the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Dentistry, people given green-tea powder showed lower levels of mouth odor compared to other substances; green tea even outperformed mints, chewing gum, and parsley-seed oil in eliminating bad breath in the survey’s participants.