Dental caries is a common problem affecting people of all ages around the world. Despite advancements in dental care, the prevalence of dental caries remains high, especially in children. Thus, there is a growing interest in identifying natural compounds that can help prevent or treat dental caries. One such compound is tea, which has been traditionally consumed for centuries and is known for its numerous health benefits. In recent years, several studies have investigated the anticariogenic effects of tea, particularly its polyphenolic compounds. This article explores the findings of these studies and examines the potential of tea as a natural alternative for controlling dental caries.
Anti-Mutans Streptococci and Glucosyltransferase Activity of Tea
Mutans streptococci are bacteria that cause dental caries. They produce two types of glucans, which are associated with their ability to cause caries. The water-insoluble glucan, which is synthesized from sucrose by glucosyltransferases (GTases), is particularly problematic because it sticks to tooth surfaces and provides a surface for other bacteria to adhere to, leading to the formation of dental plaque. The bacteria in the plaque then produce lactic acid, which decalcifies the tooth enamel and causes cavities. Green tea extract has been found to be effective in preventing dental caries, but this cannot be solely attributed to fluoride content. Various teas, including green tea, have been found to inhibit oral bacteria and mutans streptococci, and several catechins extracted from green tea have been found to be particularly effective at inhibiting the growth of cariogenic bacteria.
Studies have been conducted on the relationship between tea consumption and reduction of dental caries in humans and experimental animals. While earlier studies focused on the fluoride content in tea, later studies found that tea polyphenols, such as those found in green and Oolong teas, can significantly reduce caries. In animal experiments, rats were fed a cariogenic diet and tea polyphenols were added to their diet or drinking water at various concentrations. Results showed that the addition of tea polyphenols reduced enamel and advanced dentin lesions significantly, and the reduction of serious caries was more significant than that of total caries. Tea polyphenols were found to be effective independent of the concentration of tea, and no significant side effects were observed. Both green and Oolong teas contain different percentages of tea polyphenols, but both showed significant inhibition activity on caries in animal experiments, suggesting that both types of tea could be useful for controlling dental caries in humans.
The study found that drinking tea in addition to other beverages reduced the risk of dental problems in children by decreasing plaque production and caries risk. Another study found that rinsing the mouth with a solution containing 40% polyphenolic compounds from Oolong tea significantly reduced plaque deposition compared to rinsing with an ethanol solution. There were no significant changes in the levels of certain bacteria in saliva between the two groups, and no side effects were observed. The results suggest that the Oolong tea extract could be useful in preventing dental plaque and caries development in humans.