Is chocolate good for your teeth? Today we’ll look at the results of diverse scientific studies that have been performed over the years.
The Dental Benefits of Chocolate
According to a 2011 Yahoo Health article written by Mark Burhenne, a Doctor of Dental Surgery, chocolate is one of the most complex “superfoods” due to the presence of over 300 chemical compounds. Perhaps these chemical compounds may explain the numerous health benefits attributed to chocolate, but is it good for your teeth? It seems counter-intuitive, yet many scientific studies over the years indicate that chocolate does provide various dental health benefits.
Here’s how it works: Streptococcus mutans, a prevalent bacteria within the mouth, emits the molecule glucan which secures to teeth and ultimately forms plaque. Cavities eventually begin to materialize when bacteria within the plaque transforms sucrose molecules into acids that breakdown tooth enamel. Cocoa bean husks contain an antibacterial agent that impedes the formulation of glucan, thus the entire process of plaque buildup and tooth decay is counteracted.
In fact, a 2007 article from Fox News reported that research showed a compound in cocoa powder extract hardened enamel and may even be more effective in fighting cavities than the fluoride in toothpaste. To top it all off, Dr. Marc Liechtung, owner of Manhattan Dental Arts and member of the International Academy for Dental and Facial Aesthetics, claims dark chocolate whitens teeth while subduing microbes that generate bad breath.
This doesn’t mean we can stop brushing our teeth and start eating more chocolate. As a matter of fact, most of the the health and dental benefits comes from low-sugar dark chocolate. In a 2000 BBC article, David Beighton of the Guy’s, King’s and St. Thomas’ Dental Institute in London offered some advice: “They certainly have effects but good oral hygiene, rather than eating lots of chocolate, is the way to good healthy teeth.”
How Can I Get the Dental Benefits of Chocolate?
Dr. Mark Burhenne asserts that any one of the options listed below is a good way to experience the dental benefits of chocolate:
- Although bitter and unpleasant tasting, try chewing cacao nibs
- Try eating raw chocolate (less processing and more antioxidants)
- Eat 3-4 oz of organic, low-sugar dark chocolate every day
Quoted in a 2000 article in The Independent, Japanese researcher Takashi Ooshima of Osaka University remarked to New Scientist magazine, “It may be possible to use cocoa extract in a mouthwash, or supplement it to toothpaste.” His prediction ultimately came true, and there is now a chocolate toothpaste on the market. Theodent contains a natural cocoa bean extract and no fluoride. It is available for about $10 a tube on the Theodent website and at Whole Foods Markets.
Watch the Theodent commercial below:
Not to be outdone, Crest released a chocolate toothpaste christened Mint Chocolate Trek. It contains sodium fluoride and costs around $3 for a tube. The article does not mention if the Crest toothpaste contains cocoa bean extract.
Dark chocolate has been shown to provide some dental benefits, but it does not replace traditional oral hygiene.
Updated July 3, 2016
Originally published May 2014