While coffee may irritate and stain teeth, green tea, especially matcha, actually offers benefits for your dental health.
Matcha has beneficial ingredients, doesn’t stain if you brush normally, and can be added to other foods to enhance their benefits.
Dental benefits are one more reason to love matcha. And this isn’t a load of fluff; there’s solid science behind it.
- Is matcha actually good for teeth? Any problems with it?
- What ingredients in matcha help dental health?
- Does matcha stain your teeth?
- Is matcha better for teeth than regular green tea?
- Is matcha better for teeth than coffee?
- What about matcha lattes? Are they good or bad for teeth?
- What other connections are there between matcha and healthy teeth?
Is matcha actually good for teeth? Any problems with it?
Matcha tea is, overall, healthy for your teeth.
Peer-reviewed scientific research has shown that matcha consumption is associated with benefits for dental health. Matcha contains bioactive ingredients, such as polyphenols and catechins, which can protect against acid and bacterial attacks on your teeth.
Alkaline vs. acidic
Many popular beverages are acidic and can erode your tooth enamel, but matcha tea is slightly alkaline (the opposite of acidic).
|Acidic beverages||Alkaline beverages|
-Alcoholic beverages, especially red wine
-Milk and dairy
-Green tea (usually)
Cavities and gum disease are the most prevalent oral problems. About 90% of adults have had at least one cavity in their lives, and consumption of matcha has been found to be associated with a lower risk of cavities.
Prevents gum disease and inflammation
Periodontal or gum disease cause inflammation in your gums, the structure supporting your teeth. Although severe gum disease is rare, is a leading cause of tooth loss. Drinking matcha can help you to protect your gums.
Benefits as a (healthy) food ingredient
Besides matcha in its usual beverage form, matcha powder can be added as an ingredient to different kinds of foods:
- Cakes and cookies
- Ice cream and pudding
- Frappucinos and other sugary, creamy drinks
In processed foods, the beneficial nutrients from matcha are lower than in matcha tea. They also typically use a lower grade of matcha, possibly from cheaper suppliers, such as those in China.
Commercial matcha products also may contain harmful ingredients for your teeth, like sugar.
Eating small portions or choosing no-sugar versions of these foods can help to protect your teeth.
Or you can prepare yourself healthy versions of these foods and control the quality of the ingredients to double up your health benefits. Foods like:
- Yogurt and cereal (protein and fiber)
- Fruit salad (vitamins and fiber)
- Smoothies (vitamins and nutrients)
- Protein shakes (well, protein)
- Unsweetened or lightly sweetened lattes (calcium and protein)
Matcha is a source of amino acids, minerals, antioxidants (catechins and flavonoids), and caffeine. These substances protect the tooth enamel making it more resistant to acid. You can get this benefit mostly by drinking matcha. When you drink matcha, the liquid covers your teeth and its ingredients can protect them.
Public water, in some countries, and toothpaste, often contain fluoride as a means to prevent dental problems. Matcha has a fluoride concentration as high as toothpaste and higher than fluoridated water. Drinking matcha or fluoridated water doesn’t replace regular teeth cleaning, but might help to reinforce your dental protection.
Antioxidants, such as polyphenols
The antioxidants in matcha can reduce or prevent gum disease, especially polyphenols.
They can inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and reduce inflammation in your gums. Polyphenols work by searching for getting rid of free radicals (unstable molecules that can damage your body’s cells) and inactivating matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). The latter are actually beneficial defense enzymes, but in excess, they can do damage.
Polyphenols from matcha can counteract this effect.
Unlike other foods containing antioxidants, drinking matcha also allows its nutrients to reach the spaces between your teeth and act for a longer time.
But this can cause some temporary staining if you’re not careful.
Substances in matcha, like tannins and chlorophyl, are also natural pigments. Get a little matcha on your hands or white shirt and you’ll quickly realize this! The pigments in green tea can stain teeth. But this basically isn’t a problem for matcha.
The staining usually affects only the plaque (or damaged enamel) and can be prevented or corrected. You can do this simply by properly brushing your teeth and flossing.
And because stains are temporary and only on the surface, their presence could be helpful for you. If your dentist has ever put temporary dye on your teeth to see where you’re not brushing well enough, it’s the same effect. A stain shows where you need to brush or floss better.
If you rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash, that will often take care of it. Or brush.
So, despite (good-quality) matcha’s brilliant emerald green thanks to its growing processes in dedicated tea plantations, matcha won’t stain (much) and, on the whole, benefits your teeth.
Is matcha better for teeth than regular green tea?
Matcha and green tea are from the same plant – Camellia sinensis. Matcha, however, is finely ground powdered leaves aggressively whisked into water. Green tea, however, is made by soaking the tea leaves in water and drinking the water. So, with matcha, you’re actually consuming the leaves.
This, and the intense growing period of matcha leaves, means the concentration of healthy compounds, such as polyphenols, in matcha is higher than in regular green tea.
In fact, one study found that matcha can have 137 times more antioxidants than lower-quality green tea and 3 times more than in good-quality tea.
A person typically doesn’t drink as much matcha vs. green tea because of the high caffeine content, but the whole-leaf powder still typically packs a superior nutrient punch. This means, logically, the protective effects on your teeth should be higher with matcha.
Overall, both drinks are good for your teeth. Just be sure to brush and floss regularly and properly to enjoy the benefits.
Matcha’s chemical composition is similar to that of coffee. But matcha has a higher concentration of many components than coffee.
Coffee is notorious for causing yellow tooth stains and general loss of tooth whiteness. Tannins are the main pigments in coffee responsible for that effect.
The acid effect
The difference-maker seems to be acid, which harms the enamel – the strong covering of your teeth that can erode and stain over time.
While coffee is an acidic beverage that can damage your teeth, matcha is slightly alkaline, as mentioned above. This means less damage to teeth, and in fact, the opposite – it helps.
Drinking coffee or matcha occasionally shouldn’t be problematic for most people if you brush and floss frequently. Rather, it seems the problem with coffee is that many people drink it throughout the day, and few of them are going to brush as often. This gives more time for it to do damage.
Whitening is a solution, but can be delated or avoided
Even with staining though, whitening products and professional whitening can correct the discoloration. However, it’s much cheaper, safer, and in my opinion tastier, to enjoy a couple of cups of wonderful Japanese matcha and maybe limit the coffee to 1 cup a day.
In short, matcha lattes, if just milk and matcha, should do more good than harm. This owes to the combination of calcium and antioxidants. But two factors do get in the way.
Matcha lattes are made by mixing matcha powder (as a brewed shot or in its natural form) with steamed milk or some sort of non-dairy substitute.
Milk proteins interact with some matcha nutrients forming a complex and reducing its dental effects. The milky foam layer contains fat globules surrounding the matcha nutrients and reducing their availability for your teeth.
Strictly speaking, the dairy fat or the other oils in dairy replacements also may not be very helpful to your waistline.
Sugar is an even bigger problem, as it has few, or any benefits.
Matcha lattes are often sweetened with syrup, honey, or sugar. This means the combo of fats and sugars is probably negating any positive effects of the matcha. Moreover, commercial matcha lattes (and other “yummy” drinks) use low-grade matcha and potentially have a whole variety of additives and preservatives.
If you want to get the dental benefits from matcha, your best option is to drink matcha alone, in the way it was originally intended. Get great Japanese matcha, a whisk, a tea bowl, and savor its earthy and natural sweetness.
You still can enjoy a matcha latte from time to time, like anything, in moderation.
Other issues that can affect your teeth and gums are cavities (dental caries) and plaque. These can occur as a result of untreated cavities and gum disease, often because of poor brushing technique. They need to be treated or your teeth will continue to decay.
Matcha can help you to prevent these issues as well by attacking their underlying causes. Even once they first appear, matcha, it seems, can help you delay their development.
Matcha has also been found to have a positive effect in:
- Preventing bad breath
- Reducing chances of oral cancer
- Fighting oral thrush
Of course, get proper advice from your dentist to evaluate what works and what doesn’t.
Also, keep in mind that many Western dentists may not be familiar with matcha since they’ve never had patients who drink it.
They may also see matcha as a trendy so-called superfood, and either overstate its benefits or see it as generally worthless. Both assumptions would be wrong. You might want to seek out a Japanese dentist.