Yep, you read that correctly! Many published reports have shown that certain compounds in chocolate are more effective than fluoride at hardening tooth enamel, helping to prevent tooth decay and costly dental issues down the road. While you shouldn’t trade in your toothpaste for a chocolate bar, this research builds on a strong body of evidence for the oral health benefits of dark chocolate, including the myriad of antioxidants and other healthy compounds found in cocoa beans.
Should We Use Chocolate Toothpaste?
In a 2013 study by Caries Research, researchers found that theobromine, an all-natural and organic compound found in cacao beans, helps re-mineralize and harden tooth enamel. Enamel protects your teeth from developing cavities. When there is a weakness in your tooth enamel, due to either age or too much exposure to acid, bacteria are able to reach the vulnerable inner parts of the tooth, which ultimately leads to the development of cavities and tooth decay.
In tests, the enamel of teeth treated with a theobromine cacao bean extract toothpaste was shown to be harder than the enamel of teeth treated with fluoride, the mineral usually included in most toothpastes and mouthwashes to protect enamel. The results also showed that patients who brushed their teeth with the cacao bean toothpaste twice a day for one week had “100 percent dental occlusion,” with their tooth dentin becoming re-mineralized or repaired.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you should start brushing your teeth with Hershey’s syrup, but looking for a toothpaste with theobromine sourced from a cacao bean as an active ingredient can do wonders for your oral health.
Antioxidants Found in Chocolate Prevent Cavities and Fight Bad Breath
Simply put, antioxidants are nutrients found in vitamins and minerals, as well as enzymes in your body that are believed to play a role in preventing the development of diseases. They help protect healthy cells from damage caused by free radicals. Luckily for every chocoholic out there, dark chocolate contains a high amount of antioxidants, lending itself to a slew of health benefits including the reduction of dental plaque and inflammation, which leads to a decreased risk of periodontal disease.
Tannins, one of the main antioxidants found in dark chocolate, are responsible for the slightly bitter taste that lingers in the mouth after you eat the sweet treat. Aside from their distinct flavor, tannins prevent bacteria from sticking to your teeth by bonding to bacteria before they can form the plaque that lives on your teeth and causes cavities.
Polyphenols are another noted antioxidant found in chocolate. Polyphenols are incredible bacteria-fighting compounds that prevent bacteria from turning the sugars and starches that you eat into cavity-causing acids. Polyphenols reduce the ability of oral bacteria to cause bad breath, infections, and tooth decay.
Is All Chocolate Good For My Teeth?
It’s important to note that not all kinds of chocolate work the same for your teeth. When consumed in moderation, dark chocolate can compose part of a healthy diet, lending itself to a slew of health benefits. Unfortunately, no matter how many healthy antioxidants chocolate contains, its intake should always be limited to minimal amounts. Here are a few important notes to remember when selecting chocolate:
- Avoid milk chocolate, as it contains higher levels of sugar. Sugar feeds the oral bacteria that cause cavities and bad breath.
- Look for dark chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cocoa. The higher the cocoa percentage, the more antioxidants the chocolate contains.
- The recommended chocolate intake is one ounce per day, which is the equivalent of about six Hershey’s kisses.
Regularly enjoying small amounts of dark chocolate as part of a healthy diet can support your overall health, and may even strengthen your tooth enamel and protect your mouth from tooth decay. Regardless of how much chocolate you eat, you should brush your teeth twice a day and floss regularly to prevent the buildup of plaque, which can cause cavities and lead to periodontal disease.
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