Green teeth are the last thing you want to see in a patient’s mouth. Green TEA, on the other hand, might have some positive implications.

Green tea has been one of the most popular beverages in China, Japan, and other Asian cultures for over 4,000 years. Ancient Asian medical practices taught that consuming green tea could heal wounds and cure diseases, and more recent scientific research is beginning to corroborate that by homing in on the potential health benefits of drinking green tea in areas such as weight loss and cancer prevention.

Another study from the British Journal of Nutrition suggests green tea might even help lower blood pressure. Frustrated by the inconclusive link in similar previous studies, researchers analyzed 25 randomized controlled trials and made some concrete discoveries: After 12 weeks of regular tea consumption, blood pressure was consistently lower.

Go Green for a Healthier Mouth

Not to be outdone, researchers from the American Academy of Periodontology have uncovered yet another benefit of regularly drinking green: A study published in the Journal of Periodontology reported that routine green tea consumption may also help drinkers maintain healthy teeth and gums.

Periodontal disease–chronic inflammation affecting the gums, bone, and other tissues supporting the teeth–has been connected with the progression of other diseases such as diabetes and stroke. By interacting with the patient’s inflammatory response to the periodontal bacteria, researchers say, green tea may actually help promote periodontal health, and–along with regular oral hygiene–help stem further disease growth.

Green tea’s health benefits develop in part from the presence of the antioxidant catechin, since prior research has established antioxidants’ ability to reduce inflammation in the body. Other plant chemicals known as flavonoids help explain why tea drinkers seem less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease. Short-term studies have demonstrated a link between drinking tea and an improvement in vascular reactivity: basically, green tea can help govern the body’s reaction to stress. There’s even research that suggests that regular consumption may lower LDL cholesterol levels.

While most teas offer a certain amount of benefit, green tea is the mother lode. Both black and green teas come from the same plant; the difference occurs after the leaves have been harvested. To make black tea, the leaves are crushed and allowed to oxidize before they are dried; the leaves that go into green tea are not. This oxidation process decreases those flavonoids we just mentioned, although not to a huge degree.

The Caveat

All of us have that one patient who is constantly looking for a silver bullet: some magical cure-all that will effortlessly fix every problem. If a patient comes in touting the miracle of green tea, take it with a grain of salt: some doctors do recommend drinking tea … but only if you enjoy it. While there are no currently-known downsides to drinking one or two cups of tea a day, it isn’t really medicinal, per se. That means those green-tea-extract supplements promising a concentrated dose of flavonoids have little to no value. And since drinking too much of certain teas can cause kidney damage (like kidney stones), downing seven or eight cups a day strictly for health reasons is long shot, at best.

Of course, all scientific studies are not created equal: one recent report suggests that listeners may literally “hear” your smile over the phone, which is a great advertising benefit but hardly an exact science. But any time we can tell a patient that a comfort-habit is fine–and may in fact be healthy–we score a win.