There is good news for all of you chocolate lovers. Dark chocolate can actually be good for your teeth!
Dark chocolate offers polyphenols, natural chemicals that can inhibit the growth of bacteria in the mouth. These polyphenols can also help to prevent oral bacteria from turning ingested starches and sugars into acid which can attach the tooth enamel. Neutralizing effects can help eliminate bad breath as well.
Why dark chocolate has these effects is due to the cocoa bean extract (CBH)—the main ingredient found in chocolate. The compounds found in CBH have been found to reduce the growth rate of nearly all of the cavity-causing bacteria and create a more neutral, less acidic, environment in the mouth.
Scientists from Tulane University studied the effects of a cocoa extract on human tooth enamel as compared to fluoride. What they found is that the cocoa bean husks’ anti-bacterial effects also fought against plaque. They claim that the key to its benefits is a substance known as theobromine, an alkaloid of the cacao plant (also found in tea) that helps to harden tooth enamel.
Watch out for Sugars
Store-bought chocolates contain large amounts of sugar, and sugar is known to stimulate the growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth. Therefore, chocolates containing up to six-to-eight grams of sugar should be avoided. Instead, nibble on raw cacao nibs or look for organic dark chocolate. The less processed the chocolate is, the better.
Dark chocolate contains up to 70% cacao, while milk chocolate contains added milk and sugar to help sweeten it and reduce production costs. You can find as little as 10% cacao in some milk chocolates.
Even though dark chocolate may be good for your teeth, it is still a wise idea to rinse out your mouth after eating it. This will help remove any remaining sugars.
Dark Chocolate Contains Helpful Anti-Oxidants
The added benefit of eating dark chocolate is its anti-oxidant qualities. It has been known to help reduce the risk of heart disease, prevent certain cancers, increase insulin sensitivity, lower blood pressure, fight periodontal disease, and lighten your mood. That’s why chocolate is such a popular gift for romantic occasions like Valentine’s Day or anniversaries.
Scientists are working to incorporate the benefits of dark chocolate into our everyday lives. Could cocoa extracts be the next big thing in toothpastes? Quite possibly.
Don’t Forget Proper Dental Care
Although chocolate may have its healthy benefits, we don’t recommend a regular diet of it, or condone its use as a substitute for professional dental care. Proper home dental care must be maintained to avoid getting cavities. Brush twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, floss daily, and use a dental mouth rinse.
Contact EverSmile Dentistry
Doctor Eddie Choi, D.D.S. is a self-professed “foodie” and loves to talk about new recipes. Do you have a good dark chocolate recipe to share?