Chocolate can actually be good for your teeth! Yes, you read that correctly -- chocolate can prevent tooth decay. However, not every kind of chocolate is dental dynamite. The cocoa bean is what houses the good stuff -- not the chocolate itself -- so the closer the confection is to the bean, the better.
Cocoa beans contain tannins, polyphenols and flavonoids, each of which is a type of strong antioxidant that benefits your mouth and teeth. Tannins are what give dark chocolate it's slightly bitter taste and are responsible for the sweet's dark pigments. More importantly, they help prevent cavities by inhibiting bacteria from sticking to your teeth. Polyphenols limit the effects of bacteria, meaning they work to neutralize the microorganisms that cause bad breath, prevent infections in your gums and battle tooth decay. Flavonoids work to slow tooth decay, among other things.
Of the three kinds of chocolate (dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate), dark chocolate is the least processed and closest to the cocoa bean, which makes it the healthiest option of the three. For best results, the chocolate should be around 70 percent cocoa. Hershey's Extra Dark Chocolate contains 60 percent cocoa, so it's a pretty good choice, but Ghirardelli's Twilight Delight is a better option at 72 percent. Other bars are even more beneficial, such as Ghirardelli's Midnight Reverie and Lindt's Cocoa Supreme Dark, which contain 86 and 90 percent cocoa, respectively. You should be able to find tooth-friendly dark chocolate at your local grocery store, and many bars advertise their cocoa percentage clearly on the label. Also, in case you needed another perk, dark chocolate contains less sugar than other varieties, so it's slightly better for your waistline, too.
Read the next page to learn why dark chocolate is good for both your dental and heart health.
Teeth Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
So how, exactly, is dark chocolate good for your teeth? There's a bacterium in your mouth called oral streptococci, which produces acid that eats away at your tooth enamel. The antioxidants in dark chocolate prevent the bacteria from turning into damaging acids by acting as a sort of antibacterial compound. Also, the cocoa butter coats your teeth and prevents plaque from sticking to them.
Because chocolate has tons of antioxidants (about four times that of green tea), it can not only inhibit the production of plaque but also reduce inflammation in the body and work to prevent periodontal disease, a symptom of which is swelling of the gums. The bacteria associated with periodontal disease can also enter the bloodstream and cause heart disease and other cardiovascular problems, so periodically consuming dark chocolate is beneficial to your heart health as well.
It's important to remember, however, that munching on a piece of dark chocolate is not like downing a plateful of veggies. It has some important health benefits, but it's far from a healthy food. Like any confection, dark chocolate should be consumed in moderation. It still contains ample amounts of sugar and fat, each of which comes with its own set of health issues. Also, like all chocolates, dark chocolate isn't exactly low in calories. The recommended intake is 1 ounce per day, which is equal to about six Hershey Kisses (don't worry, they're available in a dark variety). Even this small amount, however, contains as many as 150 calories, and since it tastes so good, it's hard not to indulge.
So get your hands (and teeth) on some dark chocolate today to enjoy what is arguably the most delicious but still beneficial food on the planet. Just remember to practice portion control so the health risks associated with an expanding waistline don't overshadow the benefits to your pearly whites.
More Great Links
- BBC News. "Chocolate 'fights' Tooth Decay." Aug. 24, 2000. (Sept. 16, 2011) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/892591.stm
- Cleveland Clinic. "Heart-Health Benefits of Chocolate Unveiled." Feb. 2010. (Sept. 23, 2011) http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/nutrition/chocolate.aspx
- Collins, Karen. "Is Chocolate Good for You?" MSNBC. 2011. (Sept. 16, 2011) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7339594/ns/health-diet_and_nutrition/t/chocolate-good-you/
- Fit Day. "Dark Chocolate vs. Milk Chocolate vs. White Chocolate." 2009. (Sept. 16, 2011) http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/calories/dark-chocolate-vs-milk-chocolate-vs-white-chocolate.html
- Granato, Heather. "Polyphenols and Flavonoids in Product Formation." Natural Products Insider. Aug. 11, 2008. (Sept. 16, 2011) http://www.naturalproductsinsider.com/articles/2008/08/polyphenols-and-flavonoids-in-product-formulation.aspx?pg=2
- Hershey Company, The. "Antioxidants." (Sept. 16, 2011) http://www.thehersheycompany.com/nutrition-and-wellness/chocolate-101/antioxidants.aspx
- Mann, Denise. "Daily Chocolate May Keep the Heart Doctor Away." CNN. March 30, 2010. (Sept. 16, 2011) http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/03/30/chocolate.egg.per.day/index.html
- Melnick, Allen Dr. "Chocolate and Your Teeth." The Art and Science of Dentistry. May 11, 2010. (Sept. 16, 2011) http://www.focusedcaredental.com/blog/general/chocolate-and-your-teeth/288
- Robbins, John. "Chocolate's Startling Health Benefits." Huffington Post. Feb. 22, 2011. (Sept. 16, 2011) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-robbins/chocolates-startling-heal_b_825978.html
- Science Daily. "Drink Green Tea for Healthy Teeth and Gums." March 13, 2009. (Sept. 23, 2011) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090305183128.htm
- WebMD. "The History of Chocolate Slideshow." 2011. (Oct. 05, 2011) http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/ss/slideshow-chocolate-history