Sipping on blends of herbal tea with fruity infusions has become increasingly popular in recent years but dental experts are warning they can be as bad for your teeth as soft drinks.

New Zealand Dental Hygienists' Association president Anna Holyoake said the acid in the fruity drink erodes the teeth and causes damage to tooth enamel if people are drinking multiple cups a day.

"People do need to be cautious, in the same way as putting slices of lemon in your drink bottle and sucking on it all day can be bad for your teeth."

She said it was prolonged exposure to the acid which meant saliva wasn't able to act as a natural buffer to counteract it.
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While the impact of sugar was generally well recognised, many people were still unaware of the impact of food acids, including in herbal fruit teas, on oral health.

"Food acids are added to make flavours sharper, and may act as preservatives and antioxidants.

"These additives are found in a wide variety of food and beverages, even those without high levels of sugar such as herbal teas, which can be as acidic as soft drinks."

Common food acids include vinegar, citric acid, tartaric acid, malic acid, folic acid, fumaric acid, and lactic acid.

Her comments come after a study, funded by Sensodyne, which found almost half (49 per cent) of 1017 Kiwis surveyed were flossing less than once a week.

As well, 11 per cent were brushing their teeth just once a week or less.

Respondents also said they visited their dentist or dental hygienist less frequently than every two years.

Holyoake, a dental hygenist, said she was not surprised by the findings as it reflected what she was seeing in her practice every day.


"Kiwis need to understand they have an important role to play in maintaining their oral health in between dentist visits."

She said poor oral health could lead to bad breath, bleeding gums and tooth decay.

"There is a noticeable variation in dental hygiene practices across the country and a number of fundamentals that need to be improved if we are to see better oral health outcomes as a nation.

"Regular flossing is a key one. As is brushing twice a day for at least two minutes which will help keep more fluoride on the teeth."