Childhood Tea Drinking May Increase Fluorosis Risk

Image Credit: Josconklin / Wikimedia Commons. This image has been modified.

Tea & Fluoride 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 cranberries 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 habits—be they coffee, tea, barley coffee, or wine—have 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? There are downsides to just indiscriminately wiping out bacteria both good and bad, as I detailed in my Don’t Use Antiseptic Mouthwash video. So maybe it would be better 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 it’s the main reason the EPA is reconsidering current tap water fluoridation levels. If you watch my 3-min video Childhood Tea Drinking May Increase Fluorosis Risk, 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. Kids who primarily drink non-herbal tea as a source of hydration would 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.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

7 responses to “Tea & Fluoride Risk

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  1. Immunity is strange. For instance–
    “[…] We concluded that patients with HP infection had lower incidence of multiple sclerosis and MS patients with HP infection showed lower neurologic complications, which can demonstrate that HP infection may have a protective influence on MS pathogenesis.”

    The idea of normal flora — probiotics — seems awfully wise. Allostasis. On every level, we’re all of a piece, and never separate from our environment. Symbiosis is the principle of what endures.

  2. I must have genetically bad teeth because no matter how well I care for my teeth (electric brush twice a day & floss every night) I always have atleast two 5’s when I visit my hygenist. My parents weren’t consistant with our oral health and I had braces for nearly two years in my teens which didn’t help. I have been on a plant-based diet for almost a year now and I feel great, I’m healthy, but my tooth health hasn’t changed much yet. I switched from Earthpaste toothpaste just recently because my teeth were becoming too stained. I now use Jason brand which is better at removing stains. What can I do/eat to encourage better oral health and what can I do to help whiten them, naturally?

  3. I was just told that I have h pylori and I don’t know what to or where to begin to heal myself. I want an all natural approach but I’m wondering if that’s possible ? Please help !

  4. Noella-You said you were just told you have h pylori yet you don’t know what to do or how to heal. It sounds like you need to learn a little more about this condition then follow up with your doctor. Here are 2 good resources for you to read completely noting the usual treatments which may require medications:
    As a nurse I appreciate your desire to heal yourself but you don’t want to dismiss proven methods of healing even if they involve medications you’re rather not take. You can certainly discuss your concerns with your doctor and ask about alternatives but with this condition you may need temporary medical treatment beyond relying totally on a lifestyle approach. Once you’re well again practicing aggressive whole food nutrition and other healthy behaviors may help you resist future problems, but now working with your doctor not alone is important.

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