This idea may be your cup of tea …

| 5/28/2003

Got a date? Then you might want to replace that cup of java from your favorite truckstop with a cup of tea.

According to researchers Christine Wu and Min Zhu of the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, some of the chemicals in that cup of tea can help cut bad breath by stopping the bacteria that cause it.

In a statement on the study, university officials said typical bad breath is caused by “foul-smelling volatile sulfur compounds, like hydrogen sulfide, produced by anaerobic bacteria that thrive in environments lacking oxygen, such as the back of the tongue and deep gum pockets.”

Tea are chemical components called polyphenols, which the researchers said could prevent both the growth of bacteria that creates bad breath and prevent the bacteria's production of smelly compounds.

And while many truckers drink coffee exclusively, Jeanie Kilgore, assistant manager at the Iron Skillet restaurant at the Oak Grove, MO, Petro truckstop says tea is on the over-the-road menu as well.

“We sell a lot more coffee than the tea,” she said. “The biggest seller is coffee, but the tea is right behind it.”

Coffee outsells tea about two to one, she added. The Iron Skillet sells only regular black tea.

According to Wu’s research, the breath-freshening effect comes mainly from two groups of compounds in both black and green teas. Green tea has a group of polyphenols called catechins, while black tea contains both catechins and theaflavins.

Earlier research by Wu indicated rinsing with black tea helps cut plaque formation, bacteria in dental plaque and acids that cause tooth decay.

As for whether the drink is making a noticeable difference for the truckers stopping at the local Petro, Kilgore said she didn’t know.

“I don’t get that close,” she said with a chuckle.

--by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor

Mark Reddig can be reached at