Fashionable fruit teas have become increasingly popular in recent years, with a plethora of refreshing flavours and soothing caffeine-free ‘infusions’ on offer.
But tea-lovers might be better off sticking to a traditional cuppa – for the sake of their smile.
Dentists have warned that the acid in fruit teas can erode our teeth, wearing away enamel and raising the risk of needing a filling or crown.
Even a mug of hot water with a slice of lemon is dangerous, with the fruit containing six times the citric acid concentration of lemonade.
The warning comes from King’s College London’s Dental Institute, which found acidic drinks such as fruit tea consumed twice a day between meals made someone 11 times more likely to have moderate or severe tooth erosion.
Fruit’s natural acids corrode teeth even faster when heated up with hot water, the scientists said. But a fashionable mug of rosehip or berry tea is safer if drunk with a meal – which halves the risk. Dr Saoirse O’Toole, who led the review in the British Dental Journal, said: ‘Our study found acidic drinks like fruit teas are very erosive and quite popular.
‘Many of the 300 people with tooth wear we looked at drank lemon and ginger tea or berry teas. There also seems to be a growing trend for people to have hot water and lemon in the morning when they wake up.
‘The problem with hot drinks is that the heat increases the rate of chemical interaction with the teeth, making them more likely to cause damage.’ People who sipped their drinks slowly or swilled them around in their mouths were more at risk of eroding their teeth, the review found.
Over years, this can reduce front teeth from 10mm in size to a fifth of that length, which can then cost up to £30,000 to correct.
The review reported on a previous study at Guy’s Hospital in London which compared the diet of 300 people with severe erosive tooth wear and 300 people with good dental health. Researchers found people could reduce tooth erosion by spending less time eating fruit in one sitting and consuming acidic drinks quickly rather than holding them in their mouth.
This prevents the acid eating into the calcium and phosphate ‘enamel’ coating on teeth which protects them.
Surprisingly, the review stated sugar-free drinks were just as dangerous for tooth erosion as sugar-filled versions because of the citric acid flavourings which give the diet alternatives their ‘sharp’ taste. A warning was also given for fruit smoothies, fruit cordial and salt and vinegar crisps – which contain a small amount of vinegar flavouring that may be enough to erode the teeth.
The review also stated people could be risking their teeth by changing ‘patterns of eating’, adding: ‘Fruits are available to us outside of season and both children and adults are increasing the number of snacks we have per day.
‘In 2015, 13.3billion litres of soft drinks were consumed in the UK with an average intake of 203.6 litres per capita.’
Professor Damien Walmsley, scientific adviser to the British Dental Association, said: ‘People should be wary of drinking so called “healthy” drinks, such as fruit tea, as many of these are highly acidic and can wear away tooth enamel. Sipping these drinks is worst of all because it increases the time that these acidic drinks are in contact with teeth.’
Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of Action on Sugar, said: ‘Acidic products do cause tooth erosion and people should think very carefully before consuming potentially harmful products.’