Green Tea: A Dental Treatment?

***UPDATED: February 3, 2015*** There’s more good news for green tea drinkers and oral health enthusiasts. Research out of Penn State has shown that a compound found in green tea may trigger a cycle that kills oral cancer cells while supporting healthy ones. According to a recent Medical News Today article, the compound, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) had been previously found to kill oral cancer cells without harming normal ones, but no one understood the reasons why it targeted cancer cells, until now. “EGCG is doing something to damage the mitochondria and that mitochondrial damage sets up a cycle causing more damage and it spirals out, until the cell undergoes programmed cell death,” claims Joshua Lambert, associate professor of food science and co-director of Penn State’s Center for Plant and Mushroom Foods for Health. “It looks like EGCG causes the formation of reactive oxygen species in cancer cells, which damages the mitochondria, and the mitochondria responds by making more reactive oxygen species.” Additionally, the EGCG did not cause this reaction in normal cells. Instead, it appears that it increases the protective capabilities of the cell. The study builds upon earlier research on the compound’s effect on oral cancer, a disease that is expected to kill over 8,000 Americans this year. If further research supports the findings, researchers hope to create anti-cancer treatments that could be as effective as current methods, such as chemotherapy drugs, without the harmful side effects.

When trying to take care of your pearly whites, many have been told to avoid coffee and tea, as they are responsible for some of the staining that may make your smile dull.  However, a recent report in The Doctors Health Press, a popular online e-bulletin, is claiming that consuming green tea may be an excellent way to improve your overall oral health.  The article, “Doctors Health Press Supports Study Showing That Green Tea Could Help Prevent Cavities,” describes the report.  An Israeli research team investigated the polyphenol antioxidants found in the tea, and discovered that they have several dental benefits, including the ability to protect teeth from dental cavities caused by bacteria.

It has been commonly understood in the past that the antioxidants found in green tea can help protect against viruses, such as influenza, but it was only recently that the connection to oral health was discovered. In addition to fighting off cavities, the report indicated that green tea can also be used as a natural remedy for halitosis, or bad breath.  There are sulfur compounds found in green tea which are thought to help keep your breath fresh.  Apparently smokers can benefit from the wonder tea too.  When smoke is initially inhaled, the many harmful compounds found in cigarettes, such as nicotine, are at their highest levels of concentration.  It’s these compounds that are responsible for infections and serious conditions, like oral cancer.  According to the report, green tea polyphenols have the ability to help healthy cells from transforming into malignant cells.   With the ability to ward off cavities and decay, keep your breath fresh, and fight oral cancer, it’s no surprise that the researchers claim that green tea could be used to prevent and treat many oral health complaints.

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