Green tea has long been a staple in Asian countries.  As the beverage has become more widespread in the United States and elsewhere, so too have studies that report its health benefits for everything from weight loss to prevention of cancer, cardiovascular disease and now gum disease.  

Green tea gets a good review in the Journal of Periodontology. The March issue includes a study which analyzed a number of lifestyle factors for 940 middle-age Japanese men, including tooth brushing, smoking and green tea consumption.  It found that participants who drank green tea had less peritonitis or gum disease. Periodontitis is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth. It's caused by bacteria in the mouth and is made worse by poor oral hygiene.  

Journal editor Kenneth Kornman says the presence of a compound in green tea called catechin may explain its preventative feature.

"And that particular chemical, when purified and studied in the laboratory, has extensive ability to reduce inflammation throughout the body and also the ability to inhibit the growth of certain bacteria that may be involved in certain diseases like gum disease," he says.

Kornman says the study underscores the connection between healthy gums and a healthy body. He says chronic inflammatory conditions like gum disease, heart disease and Alzheimers are interrelated.

"Each one of these chronic inflammatory diseases does tax your body in terms of the overall inflammatory burden and load that your body is trying to deal with."

That could be reason enough to start drinking green tea, although Kornman points out that it is no substitute for good oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist.