A dentist recommending chocolate? Yes, you read correctly.
Properties in dark chocolate have been proven to strengthen enamel, ward off tooth decay, and may actually help prevent cavities!
Here’s where the gauntlet really gets thrown down: chocolate may be more effective than fluoride at these teeth strengthening activities.
Studies in England and Japan have shown that chocolate is effective at fighting cavities and dental plaque in the mouth. According to the research, chocolate is better at this than fluoride — and, of course, a much safer alternative.
How can this be possible? Isn’t chocolate full of sugar and sugar is bad for your teeth?
The mechanism actually resides within the coca bean husk, which contains a compound called CBH. CBH is a white crystalline powder that has a chemical makeup similar to caffeine, which helps harden tooth enamel, making it less susceptible to decay. CBH can both bolster enamel and deter the bacteria that cause decay.
Another compound in chocolate, theobromine, was found to be more effective at remineralizing teeth than fluoride in a University of Texas study. Theobromine, fluoride, and saliva were all tested to see what their effects were on tooth enamel. The enamel treated with theobromine showed a faster rate of remineralization than the enamel treated with fluoride. Theobromine does this by making the teeth less vulnerable to bacterial acid erosion that can eventually lead to cavities.
While fluoride is effective at strengthening tooth enamel, it also poses many risks that chocolate does not, including toxicity and fluorosis. Considering chocolate isn’t dangerous if swallowed in the same way that fluoride is, and that it is more effective at doing what fluoride’s supposed role is in strengthening teeth, this is fantastic news.
Unfortunately, none of these health benefits of chocolate come in sugary milk chocolate or white chocolate. To get the benefits, you need to go with a low-sugar dark chocolate that contains ideally 70 to 80% cacao.
Hopefully, this research will mean that chocolate can leave behind its bad name as a cavity-causing treat and begin to make its way into toothpastes. (That said, don’t be fooled by chocolate flavored toothpastes that don’t contain any chocolate compounds that strengthen teeth.) It should also encourage us to reexamine the sugary milk chocolate we eat and replace it with the good stuff that strengthens teeth and comes along with a whole host of other health benefits.
How to Reap the Benefits?
- Choose dark chocolate with less than 6-8 grams of sugar per serving.
- Choose a dark chocolate that is at least 70% cacao content. Work your way up to 80% or higher cacao content — once you get used to it, you won’t believe you ever enjoyed sugary milk chocolate!
- Be aware that chocolate is a calorie-rich food, so modify your calorie intake accordingly.
- Choose raw chocolate if possible, as it is less processed, and more of the antioxidants are left intact.
- Eat 3-4 oz of chocolate a day to lower your chance of getting cavities. Don’t brush right after you eat the chocolate to let it sit on your teeth.
- Don’t forget basic oral hygiene and regular dentist check-ups. Studies have indicated that chocolate has “powerful anti-cavity potential” but nothing replaces proper flossing technique, strong brushing habits, and seeing your dentist regularly to prevent disease in the mouth.
- Consider tossing your fluoride toothpaste. There is no doubt that fluoride remineralizes tooth structure and I do recommend it for certain people in certain circumstances, however, with so much fluoride in our environment and with issues like fluorosis on the rise, it’s certainly worth reconsidering.
Do all of this for your teeth, but enjoy the other benefits of mood elevation and better blood flow as well!
Featured photo credit: AlexanderStein via pixabay.com