Herbal teas may not be such a healthy alternative after all. Researchers at the University of Bristol Dental School in the UK reveal the potential damaging effects they may have on our teeth.
The researchers from the Division of Restorative Dentistry in Bristol in the UK had noticed that many epidemiological studies showed a high prevalence of tooth wear, even in young patients. They came to the conclusion that one factor that may be contributing to this problem is the consumption of herbal teas that are often considered to be `healthy' alternatives to other beverages.
The aim of this study was therefore to screen a number of these products for their potential to cause erosion. The erosive potential of a variety of herbal teas was assessed in the laboratory by measuring their pH, neutralisable acidity and their ability to erode enamel. These were then compared to a positive control of orange juice, a highly acidic product already known to be harmful to teeth if consumed in large quantities.
The researchers discovered that the pH of the herbal teas ranged from 3.1 to 7.1 and the neutralisable acidity ranged from 3.5 to 60.3 ml of 0.1 M NaOH. In addition the amount of enamel removed following 1 hour of immersion in the herbal teas ranged from 0.00 to 9.6 m.
In comparison, the orange juice control had a pH of 3.7, a neutralisable acidity of 21.4 ml and 'only' removed 3.3 m of enamel.
The findings confirm that many of the herbal teas tested were indeed found to be more erosive than orange juice, eroding up to three times as much enamel as orange juice. The researchers suggest that this information will be of use to clinicians when counselling patients with tooth surface loss, although it will undoubtedly be of interest to those in the industry advocating its health benefits.
Full details of the findings can be found in the May 2003 issue of the Journal of Dentistry.