I’ve said it over and over again—I am a huge fan of high-quality teas like matcha. But I’m often asked a couple of questions, like:
- What does matcha or any other kind of tea have to do with dental health?
- How do I know I’m getting a high-quality tea when I buy?
Well, one Harvard study makes a very convincing argument for drinking a lot of matcha. Their 2011 review of green teas from the Camellia sinesis plant, including matcha, concludes by saying: (1)
“The present article suggests that there is an explicit association between the consumption of green tea and oral health. It is also evident that green tea products have been used for preventing and treating several oral and periodontal diseases. Drinking green tea at meals and breaks is a relatively easy habit to maintain and drinking green tea as frequently as possible may help to maintain a healthy mouth.”
Let’s take a look at how (and why) this works. I’ll also tell you about how to choose the best matcha tea and fill you in on my favorite brand.
Disclosure:Ask the Dentist is supported by readers. If you use one of the links below and buy something, Ask the Dentist makes a little bit of money at no additional cost to you. I rigorously research, test, and use thousands of products every year, but recommend only a small fraction of these. I only promote products that I truly feel will be valuable to you in improving your oral health.
What is matcha?
Matcha green tea was the secret weapon of samurai warriors, who drank it before going into battle. Japanese monks drank matcha in Zen Buddhist ceremonies before entering intensive periods of stillness and meditation.
For the average modern person, trying to keep up with the modern day busy lifestyle can make some “zen” feel like a miracle. Drinking a cup or two of this bright green brew could help you tackle your day feeling clear, motivated, and energized, rather than foggy, stressed out, and succumbing to chaos.
According to science, the health benefits of matcha are plenty for the mind and body. Plus, there are many ways matcha benefits also extend to your dental health.
For example, did you know that by reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, you may actually improve your dental health?
8 Scientific Dental Health Benefits of Matcha
1. Reduces Anxiety and Depression (for healthier teeth?)
Sipping on matcha may feel as good as taking a nice, long, deep breath—or better. I’ll explain how this works, then tell you how it impacts the health of your teeth and mouth.
L-theanine is a rare amino acid that’s only found in tea, and matcha is the richest source. Animal studies show that L-theanine increases brain levels of serotonin and dopamine. These are two feel-good neurotransmitters that regulate mood to protect against depression and anxiety while also increasing feelings of pleasure and motivation in the brain. (2)
Also, take note for your next creative project or exam: Another study noted the synergistic combination of L-theanine and caffeine in matcha, which improved performance and increased focus and concentration during long tasks.
The same study noted L-theanine induced relaxation and actually reduced the overstimulating effects of caffeine (aka: no jitters). (3) The Zen monks and Samurais knew what they were doing.
- Getting more cavities
- Losing more teeth
- Battling dry mouth, which can lead to bad breath, cavities, and gum disease
- Brushing and flossing less often, which means they develop oral disease more rapidly
- Reporting more frequent gum bleeding and toothaches (more on sensitive teeth here)
This becomes even more important as you age. One study controlled for many external factors in life, such as gender, family, income, and more. They found that better oral health was linked to a lower risk of depression and improved overall well-being in older adults, whereas poor dental health was associated with a higher risk of depression. (8)
So, what’s the takeaway?
Depression, anxiety, and overall well-being are intrinsically linked with your dental health. By drinking matcha and integrating more lifestyle habits that reduce the symptoms, you may see an improvement in your dental health, too.
2. Fights Tooth Decay
EGCG, type of antioxidant found in green tea and matcha green tea, has been shown to reduce the growth of bacteria in the mouth that leads to cavities. (9) EGCG is one of several “catechins” in green teas, and these antioxidants are one reason green tea is so great for your overall health.
These and other antioxidants can prevent up to 10 different bacterial strains that are known to cause tooth decay.
The Harvard study I mentioned above reviewed a number of studies about how green teas, like matcha, have proved able to reduce cavities. (1)
- One double-blind trial had participants rinse their mouths with green tea after meals for just three days. Their plaque formation was decreased from between 30-43%.
- Two elementary schools gave a single cup of green tea to students after eating lunch. These schools noticed a significant drop in the number of cavities diagnosed in students.
- Scientists have also found that adding polyphenols, like catechins, to high-carbohydrate foods (candy, biscuits, sugary chocolate, etc.) actually reduced the incidence of cavities in rats.
- Adding these polyphenols to chewing gum can reduce plaque buildup.
3. Reduces Gum Disease
From gingivitis to stage IV periodontitis, gum disease is an inflammatory condition that can range from uncomfortable to excruciating. Green teas, including matcha, may be able to reverse these symptoms and offer some real relief.
First of all, drinking more green tea has been associated with less gum disease, according to one study of almost 1,000 participants. (10) Then, several lab studies have shown that certain compounds found in green tea severely limit the growth of P. gingivalis bacteria, which is responsible for gum disease. (1)
A human trial found that delivering green tea catechins directly to the pockets in the gums of patients with periodontal disease for eight weeks led to significant improvements in disease status. (11)
Three studies have examined the impact of green tea mouthwash on gum disease. All of them found that green tea mouthwash improved gum disease-causing bacteria in the mouth (one compared it to the impact of chlorhexidine mouthwash for effectiveness). Not only was it effective, it had no side effects compared to chlorhexidine mouthwash, which researchers identified as: (12, 1)
- Vesicle or mucous disturbance
These antioxidants that are so powerful for the gums also support healthy brain function and may help prevent age-related neurodegenerative diseases. (13) Interestingly, there’s a close link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s, so it’s theoretically possible that matcha’s benefit to oral health could be one reason for this. (14)
While matcha isn’t necessarily higher in EGCG than regular green tea, it does contain approximately three times more antioxidants than high-quality green tea. This is due to the way matcha is grown under shade, leading to a high chlorophyll content. Matcha is also produced using the entire leaf of the tea plant, resulting in a higher amount of antioxidants than regular green tea.
4. Cuts Down on Bad Breath
Did you know that bad breath may be a result of your oral microbiome being unbalanced? Without the right ratio of good-to-bad bacteria in your mouth, bad breath (and worse) can result. Fortunately, green tea may be one solution.
The antioxidants found in matcha green tea (and other green teas) can modify the sulphur compounds in your mouth that result in bad breath. (9) You may also want to try a green tea gum, as there’s some evidence that these can reduce the production of methyl mercaptan (another source of bad breath). (15)
5. May Reduce Oral Cancer Risk
There are many known risks for oral cancer, from smoking to not eating enough vegetables. (16)
As it turns out, green teas like matcha could potentially help reduce your oral cancer risk and may even work to fight the cellular changes that cause this disease. The antioxidants in green teas can majorly impact the development of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the mouth, otherwise known as free radicals. ROS particles are responsible for oxidative stress. (9)
When free radicals aren’t able to develop, they’re less likely to knock against the healthy cells in your mouth that they might otherwise mutate into cancerous cells.
A double-blind trial in 1999 in patients with pre-cancerous lesions in their mouths, called leukoplakia, administered tea and a topical treatment to subjects over six months.
A significant number of the patients receiving the tea treatment saw smaller lesions at the end of the trial compared to a control group. These results suggest that drinking tea may help to reduce or prevent the formation of precancerous lesions for some people, which could potentially reduce the risk of oral cancer. (17)
6. Supports Detoxification
Our bodies are no strangers to toxins and chemicals. They’re in the air we breathe, the products we use, and the food we eat (even organic produce has a legal “pesticide allowance”).
Unfortunately, some people with a mutation of the MTHFR gene struggle to naturally detox more than others. This is related to dental health because:
- People with metal fillings may not be able to efficiently detox the small amount of mercury they’re exposed to
- MTHFR gene mutations are linked to a higher risk of heart disease, which is thought to be closely related to gum disease
- MTHFR mutations may contribute to the risk of gum disease and cavities
One of the best ways to help counteract the damage toxins do to your body is to eat plenty of antioxidant-rich foods. Matcha is one of them.
Animal studies have found that the chlorophyll found in matcha and other green plants can support the liver’s detoxification processes to naturally eliminate heavy metals and toxins. It may even play a role in cancer prevention. (18)
7. May Reverse Oral Thrush
Antifungal drugs used to reverse the Candida fungus come with a list of side effects, but when you have oral thrush from Candida, you’ll probably do anything to get rid of it. The compounds found in matcha green tea can help to strengthen the impact of antifungals against this yeast, which could potentially help reverse oral thrush symptoms. (19)
8. Promotes a Healthy Heart
The anti-inflammatory action of the catechins in green tea have been shown to have protective effects on the cardiovascular system and healthy vascular function. (20) Since people with severe periodontitis (advanced gum disease) are at a greater risk for heart disease, adding green tea to your diet can be great for reducing your risk for both! (21)
How Matcha is Grown and Why This Matters
Matcha tea leaves are thrown a lot of shade (literally). They’re grown in the dark.
The shade-growing process increases matcha’s nutrients, especially chlorophyll, a green plant pigment that allows plants to absorb energy from sunlight. Chlorophyll is rich in antioxidants, and gives matcha it’s electrifying green color. (22, 23)
Shade-growing also increases the amount of L-theanine, which is the amino acid known for promoting mental clarity, focus, and a sense of calm. It’s called nature’s “Xanax” for a reason. (24)
The high amino acid content is also what gives matcha it’s signature umami taste. If you’re not familiar with the term, umami is the “fifth” taste that describes the savory flavor of foods like miso, parmesan cheese, chicken broth, spinach, and soy sauce.
You know you’ve got a premium matcha when you taste balanced umami flavors, hints of creaminess, and the slightest taste of fresh cut grass. You shouldn’t need to add any sweetener to enjoy sipping it.
When choosing a high-quality matcha powder, it’s important to remember: a strong umami flavor = higher in amino acids = the more L-theanine you’ll receive.
Once matcha leaves are harvested, they get steamed, dried, and ground up into a fine powder that you can mix with hot or cold water.
The key difference here is that you’re actually consuming the nutrients from the entire leaf— which is most concentrated in antioxidants, amino acids, and umami flavor. This is unlike traditional brewed tea, where you’re only drinking the dissolvable portions of the leaf that have been steeped in water.
How to Choose a High-Quality Matcha: Grade, Flavor, Color, Froth
I asked my friends who are experts on matcha tea to help give you the best advice on how to buy a quality matcha. Here’s what they said! — Dr. B
There are a few points to know when it comes to choosing a quality matcha, and you can grade your matcha with this scorecard. Here are the main things to look out for:
Grade: There are two grades of matcha, ceremonial grade and culinary grade. Ceremonial grade is the highest quality you can get.
It’s important to note that while ceremonial grade matcha is the highest quality there is, it’s not always guaranteed to be high quality. This is because there are no set, regulated standards for what’s required of a ceremonial grade matcha before it goes on the shelves.
In most cases, organic matcha isn’t ceremonial grade. On the contrary, most ceremonial grade matcha isn’t organic or screened for toxins— which are the last thing you want to be ingesting while drinking a health-promoting beverage. It’s quite the dilemma!
So, when choosing a ceremonial grade matcha, you’ll want to pick a variety that’s both organic and screened for toxins. (A good company will provide you their screening results upon request.)
After a bad experience with another tea brand I’d been drinking for years, I realized that many teas are actually contaminated with DDT, a pesticide that’s been illegal in the US for decades. That’s when I realized how important it was to check for toxin screenings in my teas. After all, I drink 6+ cups a day! — Dr. B
Flavor: The flavor should have a mildly vegetal, umami taste, with hints of creaminess, roasted notes. It should not taste overly grassy or have added sweeteners.
Color: The color of matcha should be bright green, which showcases it’s high chlorophyll content. If it has a yellow tint, it’s likely not from the first harvest, which can mean it’s lower quality and lower in nutrients.
In this photo, the higher quality matcha is on the left, while the lower quality is on the right.
Froth: When you whisk your matcha, it should always produce a smooth froth with nearly microscopic bubbles. Larger bubbles suggest lower quality.
As you can see, there are no downfalls to drinking high-quality matcha. It’s the perfect replacement for anyone who drinks coffee, with the award-winning combination of energizing caffeine and calming L-theanine.
It’s a powerhouse for oral health, as matcha green tea can help with many of the most common dental and oral health issues.
While matcha tastes great on it’s own, you can add matcha to a frothy vanilla almond milk latte for the ultimate healthy treat.
Key Takeaways: Matcha (+ My Favorite Brand)
The matcha I love to drink is Pique’s Sun Goddess Matcha. It’s quadruple toxin screened for pesticides, heavy metals, toxic mold AND radioactive isotopes.
After having a bad experience with a tea brand I’d been drinking most of my life, I realized how important this is. Because of DDT contamination to other concerns, it’s important not to play around with your tea brand.
Because of the way matcha green tea can counter the development of cavities, gum disease, bad breath, oral cancer, and oral thrush, it’s a win-win for me.
Got any other beverages you’d like me to write about? Just ask me.read next: Soothe Inflamed Gums with this Turmeric Golden Milk Tea
- Arab, H., Maroofian, A., Golestani, S., Sohrabi, K., & Forouzanfar, A. (2011). Review of The therapeutic effects of Camellia sinensis (green tea) on oral and periodontal health. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research, 5(23), 5465-5469. Full text: http://www.academicjournals.org/app/webroot/article/article1380539187_Arab%20et%20al.pdf
- Nathan, P. J., Lu, K., Gray, M., & Oliver, C. (2006). The neuropharmacology of L-theanine (N-ethyl-L-glutamine) a possible neuroprotective and cognitive enhancing agent. Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy, 6(2), 21-30. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17182482
- Dietz, C., & Dekker, M. (2017). Effect of green tea phytochemicals on mood and cognition. Current pharmaceutical design, 23(19), 2876-2905. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28056735
- Okoro, C. A., Strine, T. W., Eke, P. I., Dhingra, S. S., & Balluz, L. S. (2012). The association between depression and anxiety and use of oral health services and tooth loss. Community dentistry and oral epidemiology, 40(2), 134-144. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21883356
- Bergdahl, M., & Bergdahl, J. (2000). Low unstimulated salivary flow and subjective oral dryness: association with medication, anxiety, depression, and stress. Journal of Dental Research, 79(9), 1652-1658. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11023259
- Friedlander, A. H., & Mahler, M. E. (2001). Major depressive disorder: psychopathology, medical management and dental implications. The Journal of the American Dental Association, 132(5), 629-638. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12653339
- Marques‐Vidal, P., & Milagre, V. (2006). Are oral health status and care associated with anxiety and depression? A study of Portuguese health science students. Journal of public health dentistry, 66(1), 64-66. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16570753
- Hassel, A. J., Danner, D., Schmitt, M., Nitschke, I., Rammelsberg, P., & Wahl, H. W. (2011). Oral health-related quality of life is linked with subjective well-being and depression in early old age. Clinical oral investigations, 15(5), 691-697. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20582443
- Narotzki, B., Reznick, A. Z., Aizenbud, D., & Levy, Y. (2012). Green tea: a promising natural product in oral health. Archives of oral biology, 57(5), 429-435. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22226360
- Kushiyama, M., Shimazaki, Y., Murakami, M., & Yamashita, Y. (2009). Relationship between intake of green tea and periodontal disease. Journal of periodontology, 80(3), 372-377. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19254120
- Hirasawa, M., Takada, K., Makimura, M., & Otake, S. (2002). Improvement of periodontal status by green tea catechin using a local delivery system: a clinical pilot study. Journal of periodontal research, 37(6), 433-438. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12472837
- Moghbel, A. A. H., FARAJZADEH, S. A., Aghel, N., & RAEISI, N. (2010). Formulation and evaluation of green tea antibacterial mouthwash effect on the aerobic mouth bacterial load. Abstract: https://www.sid.ir/En/Journal/ViewPaper.aspx?ID=183936
- Wang, Y., Li, M., Xu, X., Song, M., Tao, H., & Bai, Y. (2012). Green tea epigallocatechin‐3‐gallate (EGCG) promotes neural progenitor cell proliferation and sonic hedgehog pathway activation during adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Molecular nutrition & food research, 56(8), 1292-1303. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22692966
- Poole, S., Singhrao, S. K., Chukkapalli, S., Rivera, M., Velsko, I., Kesavalu, L., & Crean, S. (2015). Active invasion of Porphyromonas gingivalis and infection-induced complement activation in ApoE-/-mice brains. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 43(1), 67-80. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25061055
- Yasuda, H., Moriyama, T., & Tsunoda, M. (1995). The effect of chewing gum for halitosis by gas chromatography (III)—Investigation of chewing gum containing tea extracts. Nihon Sisyubyo Gakkaishi (J Jpn Assoc Periodontol), 37, 141-148.
- Petti, S. (2009). Lifestyle risk factors for oral cancer. Oral oncology, 45(4-5), 340-350. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18674956
- Li, N., Sun, Z., Han, C., & Chen, J. (1999). The chemopreventive effects of tea on human oral precancerous mucosa lesions. Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, 220(4), 218-224. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10202392
- Simonich, M. T., McQuistan, T., Jubert, C., Pereira, C., Hendricks, J. D., Schimerlik, M., … & Bailey, G. S. (2008). Low-dose dietary chlorophyll inhibits multi-organ carcinogenesis in the rainbow trout. Food and chemical toxicology, 46(3), 1014-1024. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2404114/
- Hirasawa, M., & Takada, K. (2004). Multiple effects of green tea catechin on the antifungal activity of antimycotics against Candida albicans. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, 53(2), 225-229. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14688042
- Babu, A., Pon, V., & Liu, D. (2008). Green tea catechins and cardiovascular health: an update. Current medicinal chemistry, 15(18), 1840-1850. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2748751/
- Bahekar, A. A., Singh, S., Saha, S., Molnar, J., & Arora, R. (2007). The prevalence and incidence of coronary heart disease is significantly increased in periodontitis: a meta-analysis. American heart journal, 154(5), 830-837. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17967586
- Eggink, L. L., Park, H., & Hoober, J. K. (2001). The role of chlorophyll b in photosynthesis: hypothesis. BMC Plant Biology, 1(1), 2. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC59834/
- Oregon State University. Chlorophyll and Chlorophyllin. Retrieved from: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/chlorophyll-chlorophyllin#antioxidant-effects
- Nobre, A. C., Rao, A., & Owen, G. N. (2008). L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition, 17(S1), 167-168. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18296328