Protecting Teeth From Hibiscus Tea

Image Credit: T.Kiya / Flickr. This image has been modified.

Rinse Your Mouth After Sour Foods & Drinks

Hibiscus tea has been found to be as effective at lowering blood pressure as a leading hypertension drug without the potential side-effects (which include everything from lack of strength to impotence, including rare cases of potentially fatal liver damage). Hibiscus, though, may have adverse effects of its own.

As I’ve reviewed previously in Plant-Based Diets: Oral Health, people who eat plant-based diets appear to have superior periodontal health, including less gum disease and fewer signs of inflammation, like bleeding. However, they also have twice the prevalence of dental erosions, areas on the teeth where the enamel has thinned due to more frequent consumption of acidic fruits and vegetables. Therefore, after we eat something like citrus, we should swish our mouths with water to clear the acid from our teeth.

This includes beverages. I’m a big fan of hibiscus tea, but it’s not called “sour tea” for nothing. In a study highlighted in my video, Protecting Teeth from Hibiscus Tea, researchers at the University of Iowa dental school tested 25 different popular teas and found two with a pH under 3 (as acidic as orange juice or coca cola): Tazo’s passion and Bigelow’s red raspberry, both of which contain hibiscus as their first ingredient.

To see if these teas could actually dissolve teeth, the researchers took 30 extracted molars from people and soaked them in different teas. And indeed, out of the five teas tested, the greatest erosion came from the tea with the most hibiscus. The researchers left the tooth sitting in the tea for 25 hours straight, but this was to simulate a lifetime of exposure. The bottom line is that herbal teas are potentially erosive, particularly fruity and citrusy teas like hibiscus. To minimize the erosive potential, we can use a straw to drink the beverage. And as I mentioned above, after consuming an acidic food or drink we should also rinse our mouth with water to help neutralize the acid.

For more on the effects of hibiscus on blood pressure, see the previous video, Hibiscus Tea vs. Plant-Based Diets for Hypertension.

Are there other potential downsides to tea drinking? That’s the topic of my videos: Is There Too Much Aluminum in Tea? and How Much Hibiscus Tea is Too Much?

For more on avoiding drug side-effects by choosing more natural treatments can be found in videos like:

For more on diet and oral health, see:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Discuss

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.


55 responses to “Rinse Your Mouth After Sour Foods & Drinks

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  1. I have a re-usable bamboo straw, it has a little bend in it. I just rinse it out and let it dry, I’m the only one who uses it. SO has refused to use a straw (it just occured to me that maybe he thinks it doesn’t look masculine or mature). Any ideas?

    1. I’d imagine your SO doesn’t use a straw because they just don’t like them and/or they see no need to?

      Early on in my best marriage, my wife tried to encourage me to use straws. I personally don’t much care for them. I don’t wear lipstick nor have temperature sensitive teeth (any more) and so have no need to use a straw. Fundsmentally, I don’t want to ecourage the production of yet more plastic garbage.

      1. RalphRhineau: re: “…plastic garbage…” Not to discount a single thing in your post (all of which makes sense to me!), I thought I would point out that some people use reusable straws, such as those made out of glass or silicon or as lilyroza said, bamboo.
        .
        I just got some glass straws myself to see if I can make myself like them. I’m not generally a fan of straws myself. But I do like the look and feel of these glass straws. (Just sharing.)

        1. Hey, Thea, understand that other straw materials are out there, I just never see them and figured that’s where I’d end up if I was to start “sucking it” ;^) Of course, I probably never see them because I’m not looking for them. My hunch is that most folks wouldn’t lay out the money for straws designed for years of use. I don’t even want to think about how much plastic ends up in our landfills and oceans thanks to fast food convenience.

          I have to confess, putting a glass straw in my mouth would wierd me out… even though my engineer mind knows the glass is probably tempered, the mental image of what if it broke in my mouth is just too much for me.

          I’m actually old enough to remember using straws made of rolled paper. Wonder if they still are made?

          1. George: I tried that very test last night. I felt that drinking from the straw helped a bit at preventing the liquid from touching my teeth, but not nearly as much as I had hoped. On the other hand, I’m probably not the right person to ask. I’m not used to using straws, and my technique may be off.

            1. George: I have used a glass straw for over a year, and it helps to a great degree. A paper straw is actually more manipulable, as you can reshape it a bit to get the best results for your mouth. I started using a straw because my dentist said that leisurely sipping coffee, tea, etc., is like bathing one’s teeth in the equivalent of battery acid over the prolonged course of the sipping. I now use the straw and drink acidic beverages more quickly than I used to, rinse thoroughly with water when done, and avoid brushing my teeth for at least 30 minutes. I’m already seeing the results in eliminating pinpoint caries near the gumline in my senior teeth.

    2. If he doesn’t want to use a straw for whatever reason then maybe you can at least convince him to wash out his mouth after drinking or eating anything acidic. Have you shown him Dr. Greger’s videos on the topic? I personally use a straw to drink my smoothies since it’s just easier/more convenient than regular drinking.

  2. “… after consuming an acidic food or drink we should also rinse our mouth with water to help neutralize the acid.”

    Actually, swishing our mouths out with water doesn’t neutralize anything, it only dilutes the acid. Not to say it isnt abe good preventative measure, it just doesn’t counteract the acid.

    If one truly wants to neutralize the acid, then I’d suggest swishing out with a dilute baking, soda solution (think of the “volcanoes” we made init grade school). I have no research to support a suggestion, but I’d imagine it wouldn’t take much to neutralize what’s left on the teeth… 1/8-1/4 tsp in a cup of water?

    1. You’re right; I think Dr. Greger used the word “neutralize” casually here, meaning “wash away”. The problem with rinsing with baking soda is it increases the sodium load, which is already high for most of us. Yes, you wouldn’t swallow sodium intentionally, but some would inevitably be swallowed. Potassium bicarbonate would be a better choice, again as long as it’s not intentionally swallowed., but I don’t know if it’s available to retail consumers. Potassium citrate would be good, too.

      1. To be honest, till I went to price potassium bicarbonate and citrate, I wasn’t aware that the average Jo/Joe could get their hands on such things outside of a science supply outfit. The world of nutritional supplements is a marvel to behold. That said, one would pay dearly for those compounds.

        Given the concentrations I suggested, I don’t think it’s necessary to avoid every instance of sodium (I say this as a heart attack survivor who watches my sodium ingestion.) An 1/8 tsp per cup solution contains 150 mg of sodium. Assuming one swished a quarter cup of mouth rinse and swollowed even 10% of the rinse, we’re talking about less than 4 mg of sodium. Against the backdrop of a 1,500+ mg daily consumption of sodium, we’re talking about less than 1/4 % of the sodium we ingest.

        The ability to neutralize the citric acid, with a cheap, available and safe substance at the cost of a minor amount of sodium seems like a good trade-off to me. Of course, YMMV.

      2. these are good ideas. I would also recommend gargling with some sea-salt and water after an acidic drink to neutralize the acidity in the mouth.

        1. While adding salt to the water will be more antibacterial, salt-water can’t neutralize an acid solution. It’ll only dilute the acid that’s been taken in

  3. All thus hype about curing diabetes. It’s not the same for some…lie, me. I gave been vegan for 1 ad daises well controlled with diet, but suddenly BGs wet out of control (AIC) AND I AHVE BEEN EATING VEGAN raw, now I am insulin ti citric blood sugars. I am slim, act by no means overweight, BMI is 22, with Fat~R about about 14. Still progressive diabetes. No Flag waiving doctor who say diapers can be cured is address my type of issue, and there are plenty of us

    1. How much of your diet consists of fruit? How much is grains? Dried fruit – raisins, dates, etc.?
      Do you exercise after eating, and by exercise it could simply be being in motion, gardening, walking,
      manual labor, etc.

      Do you eat a lot of vegan fat? What kinds?

      1. I do not exercise after eating. I am disabled. I do not eat dairy, or rarely, and never ever meat for health and ethical reason. I call all of the above except dates; no gardening, lots of motion and ‘getting out’. I cannot do manual labor. My A!C for 13 years have been 5.8, no meds, not they are fluctuating form 5.8~9. Now I am on insulin with each mean and bedtime. Diabetes runs in the family, and also runs in the Irish race. I am thin and I have never been fat. My BMI 22 and muscle to fat ratio is about 13 which is athletic. Go figure. I have cashews about twice per week.

        1. My suggestion (not medical advice, just if it were me) would be to have small meals throughout the day, limiting the amount of insulin required at any one time to deal with the amount of food just eaten. Small portions, maybe 6 meals a day, and to have the body in some sort of motion after each and every meal, never eating a meal and just calling it a day. Look at creatures in nature, they are often in motion, on their legs, gathering food, whatever. 1/2 walk post meal.

          Also, I’d want to cut out/back onthe breads, cooked fats, too many grains, white rice, sugar and sweetners, caffeine.

          Maybe explore mono-meals. One food item per meal, maybe 2 o 3 tops. Get simple.

    2. Sorry to hear of the health issues you’re facing.

      Question… are you dealing with type 1 or type 2 diabetes? While I’ve read good things about how a WF-PB, non-SOS diet helps many with type 2, I haven’t read much about how it can help type 1. My understanding is that type 1 is a genetic autoimmune attack and loss of insulin producing beta cells while type 2 is where the body becomes unable to repond to the insulin that is produced.

      You might want to read the materials Dr John McDougall and Dr Neal Barnard have written… both have worked with diabetics.

  4. Acidic foods aren’t the only problem for vegan teeth… my dentist says I’m losing enamel from too many nuts and seeds. So I’ve switched to nut and seed butters instead. A spoonful a day keeps the dentist away…. :)

      1. well, yeah, but I think vegans/vegetarians may have a lot more nuts and seeds than omnivores, so probably a bit more of a concern for us.

        1. Russell: Did your dentist share what the theory is as to why eating nuts and seeds would be a problem for the teeth? I’ve never heard of that before and can’t think why that would be.

          1. They’re hard, and just wear down the enamel when you chew. She said that even biting one’s nails wears down enamel, so clearly there’s a lot of things that can contribute to that.

            1. Russell: Thanks for the reply. I know that nuts are harder than say grapes, but I don’t tend to think of them as being a hard food. That’s interesting. I wonder if there have been any studies to show that eating food the consistency of nuts can wear down teeth. I’ll have to look into that.

              1. Advice to NOT follow to drive the point home… try chewing them without teeth! LOL! My gramma missed her celery, apples and nuts which I didn’t think of as hard either! (but increasingly do now!) She also used to tell us, with her Polish accent…”dunt get old”. As usual, I didn’t listen! ha ha

            2. A biologist colleague started eating raw-only plants after his dad died. He was in great shape, but ate a LOT, e.g., basket of peaches from roadside stand for lunch on one trip! The local dental school recruited him to demonstrate tooth erosion that the students would never see otherwise!

        2. Agreed. That said, from my visits to Costco, seems like we have a lot of company when it comes to nut consumption.

    1. That’s a judgement call based on risk & benefit… over the past week, Dr G’s presented a lot of info on the benefits of eating/drinking vinegar as well as the risk to our teeth from the vinegar (and citric acid as well.)

      From my knot hole, I’m finding I’m tending to eat less by including vinegar and can counter the residual acid with the dilute baking soda rinse I wrote about below. I also, need some help to reduce my stubborn visceral fat which I hope the vinegar will do for me. Time will tell on that account.

      In the end, you have to decide which is more important to you.

      1. thank you for this thoughtful comment— I will now use the phrase “from my knot hole.” I think I will stay away unless cravings consume me. In which case, I’ll take precaution and enjoy the benefits :)

  5. My dentist told me not to brush my teeth for an hour after eating in order to avoid brushing the acid into the enamel. But I would think that if you rinsed your mouth out first you’d be okay.

    1. You should still wait a while. The enamel consists of tiny microtubules which contains minerals. Due to the acid these microtubules lose their minerals, but they can be replenished, it takes about an hour. Of course, the sooner you get rid of the acid the better, but even if the acid is gone it will take a while for the microtubules to refill. Empty microtubules are much weaker than filled ones, they can be easily destroyed when brushing your teeth. They don’t regrow, so you’ll then have lost some of your enamel.

    1. Rauta: It’s my understanding that xylitol works by suppressing bacteria growth. But that process of suppressing bacterial growth would do nothing to stop the softening of enamel caused by acid. On the other hand, maybe swishing a xylitol mint around the mouth would change the overall PH in a person’s mouth??? I don’t know. Just speculating.

      1. Swishing xylitol in the mouth after eating will raise the salivary pH. Xylitol is quite alkaline. Chewing celery does the same thing for me–celery juice must be alkaline as well.

        1. Julie: Chemistry! Fun, fun. It’s interesting to me how much you monitor your pH. I saw your other post about the test strips. The idea intrigues me. Thanks for sharing the brand you like.

  6. You can also just mix it with a different type of tea so it is not so sour/acidic. Green tea, black tea, what ever your favorite is. I used Rosemary today. Pretty good. I have usually mixed it with green tea anyway just to get the health benefits of both.
    John S

  7. I don’t know what my mother took when she was carrying me, (she had some issues) but seems like I was born with ultra sensitive and weak teeth. Brushing, which she made me do religiously, made it worse, and I could never understand why people had to brush when no other creature needed to scrub a weird nasty paste onto their teeth in some mandatory ritual torture! It sure never helped me, but still curious when we started doing this, and why is it only us and the animals we live with that have so many dental issues?

    1. Well, sharks don’t seem to have a real problem given that they produce a steady stream of replacement teeth through their lives. I imagine that most toothed critters are eaten or die of other causes before oral disease gets them.

      1. Lucky sharks! I know all creatures with teeth can have issues with them, but I was wondering if the preponderance of it in humans may be a trade off for cooking/processing our food? It makes some nutrients and energy more available, but has also radically altered our mouth, teeth, jaws and guts, compared to our closest ancestors. Besides that though, since the animals we have as pets also eat cooked pet foods, it makes me wonder. Our housecats have had horrible dental issues and bad breath eating even “good quality” commercial pet foods, yet a few of the feral/tamed cats who get their own food have far fewer related issues, and at least one of them is an old man who has been around for the 12 years we’ve been here. Obviously, any dis-ease happens when an organism’s “healthy” balance is shifted, and we are what we eat, but the quest for the specifics is always fascinating!

    2. Vege-tater: you wrote: “…when no other creature needed to scrub…” Perhaps other creatures would benefit from brushing.
      .
      I remember a description of the condition of a wild canine in Africa that was sedated and examined. Here’s a quote from the blog post: “…eventually we all were allowed to come down and see Jones close up, pet his stiff fur and look at his two horrendously infected teeth. Ouch.” from: http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/theotherendoftheleash/the-illustrated-african-wild-dog-story (That was back in 2009. Yeah for me for remembering that.)
      .
      I’m guessing that often enough wild mammals do suffer horribly from bad teeth, but they just have to suffer since they don’t have brushing nor dentists. But I could be wrong. That’s just my guess.

      1. Okay, you’re hired, you come TRY to brush my cat’s teeth, because I pass! It was hard enough trying to convince my kids, who were notorious for faking me out…and because I had so much misery from it, honestly, I didn’t push it. Ironically, unlike me, neither had a single cavity (un-fluoridated water) until adulthood, so other than the “fuzzy jackets” we all despise, I am just not totally convinced that healthy teeth AND a healthy body couldn’t be better facilitated by a diet rich in chewy, fibrous plants, and less mushy cooked stuff! (My cat however, disagrees, so I told him you were coming! LOL!)

        1. Vege-tater: tee, hee. I think I’ll skip the cat teeth cleaning. But for the record, the woman who clean’s my dog’s teeth (without anesthesia) says that she does cat’s teeth too. I think that job should get hazard pay. I can’t imagine asking someone to clean a cat’s teeth.

          1. This is both sad and funny…a friend’s dog had horrid dental issues and the vet knocks the poor creature out because there is NO way he will even let you look in his mouth! If you even just say ” lemme look at your teeth”, he will turn his head away and growl, hilarious!
            Dog teeth can be big, but cat teeth are even sharper and scarier! My cat has this weird compulsion when he’s feeling affectionate, to bite my eyebrows! He is very gentle and it starts with him staring lovingly at my face…and then I get blasted with carnivore breath and the eyebrow nibble! Not a clue why he does this! I’ve had plenty of cats give “love bites”, but on my eyebrow? (Kinda scary when you know this is an obligate carnivore, but awfully cute all the more!)

    3. I’m wondering if a “water-pik” and flossing would be just as effective as brushing to keep teeth and gums healthy. I would think it would be much less abrasive on the enamel.

  8. Hello Dr. Greger,

    Is there a list somewhere of acidic fruits, vegetables,
    foods and beverages so we know when we have to rinse the mouth after eating?

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