Chocolate is a fun gift for holidays. While candy generally doesn’t mix well with keeping teeth healthy, dark chocolate (the kind with at least 70% cocoa) can actually be a cavity fighter. That’s obviously fantastic news for chocolate lovers.
Recent studies emerging from Japan, England, and the U.S. support the fact that chocolate is effective at fighting cavities, plaque, and tooth decay in the mouth.
Dark chocolate doesn’t deserve its bad rap as a cavity-causing treat. It may actually help prevent cavities! And here’s where the gauntlet gets thrown down. Compounds in chocolate may be more effective at fighting decay than fluoride. Researchers are predicting that one day, the compound found in chocolate called CBH will be used in mouthwashes and toothpaste.
Tooth decay occurs when bacteria in the mouth turn sugar into acids, which eat away at the tooth’s surface and cause cavities. Compounds in the cocoa bean husk have an anti-bacterial effect and also fight against plaque. This makes chocolate less harmful than many other sweet foods your dentist might warn you against because the antibacterial agents in cocoa beans offset its high sugar levels.\
The Compound CBH
The compound CBH, a white crystalline powder whose chemical makeup is similar to caffeine, helps harden tooth enamel, making users less susceptible to tooth decay. This specific compound has been proven effective in the animal model, but it will take another two to four years before the product is approved for human use and available for sale (in the form of mouthwashes and toothpastes).
In the meantime, however, one can “administer” this compound via the ingestion of chocolate. Eating 3 to 4 ounces of chocolate a day is a great way to take advantage of this wonder compound and lower your chance of getting cavities. What an easy and fun recommendation a doctor can make; it’s been called the food of the gods, a supposed aphrodisiac, and the drink that Casanova favored.
Chocolate Contains Polyphenols
Polyphenols are a class of naturally occurring chemicals that can limit oral bacteria. They are also able to neutralize the microorganisms that cause bad breath and prevent bacteria from turning sugar and starches into acid. Polyphenols have great promise for their apparent anticancer and anti-inflammatory effects as well as their ability to reduce hypertension and stroke.
Tannins are Abundant in Chocolate
Tannins are plant compounds that are found in many of the foods we eat. They’re also what give dark chocolate its slightly bitter taste and dark color. Tannins have been shown to help stop bacteria from sticking to teeth because their molecules bind to bacteria before plaque has time to form.
The Flavonoid Compound Epicatechin is Found in High Quantities in Chocolate
Flavonoids are a group of plant-based antioxidants that have been shown to slow tooth decay. A recent study by researchers at the University of California showed that a particular flavonoid called epicatechin displays a remarkable ability to reduce cholesterol, blood clots and clogged arteries.
Cocoa not Snickers- Best Chocolate for Your Teeth
For the best therapeutic effect (yes, we’re still talking about chocolate), it’s best to chew on cacao nibs. Most will find this option unpalatable.
The second-best choice, is dark chocolate with less than 6-8 grams of sugar per serving – organic if possible. Be aware that chocolate is a calorie-rich food, so modify your calorie intake accordingly. Raw chocolate is even a better choice, as it is less processed, and more of the antioxidants are left intact.
Do all of this for your teeth, but enjoy the other benefits of mood elevation and better blood flow as well!
Again, chocolate should be at least 70% cocoa for most of these benefits to your teeth and body. However, almost any food can be eaten in moderation, as long as you remember to keep brushing regularly.
With the recent findings, it’s now more true than ever, that chocolate is a superfood. Chocolate has over 300 chemical compounds in it, making it one of the most complex foods we know of, and it is predicted that many new compounds in chocolate beneficial to us will surface over time and cement its nutritional five-star rating.
Sources: AskTheDentist.com, TribecaPediatricDental.com