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Childhood Tea Drinking May Increase Fluorosis Risk

Green tea consumption may help prevent cavities, but excessive consumption among young children may lead to dental fluorosis due to the natural fluoride content of the plant.

June 14, 2013 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited


Images thanks to Nicole Lee and Dozenist via Wikimedia Commons.


If cranberries are so good at keeping bacteria from sticking to the wall of the bladder, what about the keeping bacteria from sticking to other places? Well there's in vitro research suggesting cranberry phytonutrients may reduce adhesion of H. pylori bacteria in the wall of the stomach, and so maybe should be given along with antibiotics to help eradicate the ulcer-causing bacteria. And hey, what about our teeth? Dental plaque is bacteria sticking to our teeth, particularly streptococcus mutans. We've known that those with different drinking habits, be they coffee, tea, barley coffee, or wine, have about 10 times less of this 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. Well there are downsides to just indiscriminately wiping out bacteria both good and bad, as I detailed in antiseptic mouthwash video. So maybe if we just stop the bad bugs from sticking to our teeth? Well, 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 that developed fluoride toxicity drinking up to like 5 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 faint white spots--but is the main reason the EPA is reconsidering current tap water fluoridation levels. Currently, the suggested upper limit in water is 2 parts per million and the mandatory upper limit is 4. Herbal teas were fine about 100 fold under the limit, but caffeinated teas exceeded the suggested limit, and decaf teas exceeded the mandatory limit.

Remember, though, that's the limit for tap water. So tea drinking would only pose much of a risk if drank all day long as one's primary beverage. So 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.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Ariel Levitsky.

To help out on the site please email

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

What may be the best source of hydration for kids? See my video Does a Drink of Water Make Children Smarter?

Might tea also cause dehydration? Check out Is Caffeinated Tea Dehydrating? 

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.

What was that about cranberries keeping bacteria from sticking to the wall of the bladder? See my last video, Can Cranberry Juice Treat Bladder Infections?

The mouthwash video I reference is: Don’t Use Antiseptic Mouthwash and the fluoride toxicity case report at Overdosing on Tea.

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. I explore a few in my next video, Fukushima and Radioactivity in Seafood.

For more context check out my blog: Tea and Flouride Risk

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Nibiskusse

    What do you think of fluoride in toothpaste? Do you think we should stop using fluoride containing toothpastes? What do recent studies show? Thank you!

    • Nibiskusse

      Oh sorry, I just saw your Q&A on the Dangers of Fluoride.

      • Thea

        Thanks for the tip about that page. I checked it out too. :=)

  • Dan Murray

    Sorry that this is off topic…but it looks like Dr. G got a Google Glass!

  • Coacervate

    Hang on, are Yamanaka et al concluding that cranberry juice selectively inhibits adhesion of pathogenic bacteria but not beneficial bacteria?

  • nyscof

    Fluoridation Opposition is Scientific,Respectable & Growing

    Over 4,600 professionals (including 365 dentists and 566 MD’s) urge that fluoridation be stopped because science shows fluoridation is ineffective and harmful. See statement:

    Nobel Prizewinner in Medicine, Dr. Arvid Carlsson, says, “Fluoridation is against all principles of modern pharmacology. It’s really obsolete.”