Acidity is determined by the pH scale. Neutral is around 7 and anything under a pH of 4 is considered very acidic. Most teas are mildly acidic, but some tests show that certain teas may be as low as 3.
If you're a tea lover, you may wonder if this means your cup of tea is hurting your teeth. Fortunately, it’s mostly untrue. Home-brewed teas aren’t as acidic as fruit juices and other drinks. The average person probably doesn’t drink enough acidic tea to damage their teeth.
But this damage also depends on other factors, including:
- the type of tea
- how you drink tea
- how often you drink tea
- what you add to your tea
Read on to learn which types are the most acidic and the best ways to protect your teeth while still enjoying your cup of tea.
The "safe" pH level of drinks that won’t cause tooth damage is considered 5.5.
In general, the more “sour” a tea tastes, the more acidic it’s likely to be. But a Turkish study did discover that fruit teas, which tend to be sweet, are more acidic than herbal tea.
Other factors that affect pH level include:
- how long you steep your tea
- how diluted your tea is
- additives like citrus flavoring, milk, and herbs
Adding more water, which has a pH level of 7, may decrease acidity.
Black and green tea is usually less acidic than coffee. One analysis found that coffee was less acidic than lemon tea and more acidic than black. Black tea was found to have a pH of 6.37, while coffee had a pH of 5.35. The acidity level for tea and coffee also depends on where you’re getting it from.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), a pH between 2 and 4 is considered very dangerous to your teeth. Most teas are nowhere in that range. The also found that pH levels restore about two minutes after drinking black tea. This really isn’t enough time to cause damage.
If you have sensitive teeth or are concerned about your teeth, you can change how you drink your tea. For example, drink cold teas through a straw.
Avoid these habits
- swishing tea in your mouth
- holding tea for a long time before swallowing
- brushing your teeth immediately after drinking hot or acidic tea
Allow your teeth at least half an hour to harden up again before brushing your teeth. When you drink an acidic beverage, the enamel on your teeth actually softens. Brushing your teeth right away can damage the enamel.
Effects of acidity on your stomach
Research shows that herbal teas may actually help conditions like acid reflux. Adding milk may help your stomach produce less acid than plain tea, if you find that plain tea irritates your stomach.
Tea is a good alternative to sugary drinks and other beverages. Children can drink tea, but you may want to avoid steeping teas for too long. The longer the tea steeps, the more caffeine it will contain.
While the United States doesn’t have guidelines about caffeine intake for kids, Canadian guidelines recommend 45 milligrams or less a day. It's important to note that plain tea that is not fruity is beneficial. Adding anything else could change the acidity levels.
If you tend to buy bottled tea, The American Dental Association put together a list of the common types of bottled teas found in convenience stores. If you’re a fan of fruit teas, try diluting them with water to increase the pH level.
Be sure to visit your dentist for teeth cleanings and checkups every six months. Black tea might stain your teeth, so if that bothers you, regular dental cleanings will help. Other healthy, low-acid teas you may want to try include dandelion, ginger, saffron, and holy basil (tulsi).