Is chocolate good for oral health? The answer may surprise you…Yes! Chocolate is good for oral health as well as overall health. It has some surprising dental health benefits. You read that right and this may be the best news you’ve heard today!
THE SECRET OF CHOCOLATE
The cocoa bean is where all the dental health goodies come from as opposed to the chocolate itself. This means that the closer the chocolate is to the cocoa bean, the better it is for your oral health. 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, making it the healthiest of the three. Look for chocolate containing at least 70% cocoa.
THE KEY TO DARK CHOCOLATE
Cocoa beans contain three ingredients – tannins, polyphenols and flavonoids. Each of these is a type of antioxidant that is beneficial to your dental health. Tannins give dark chocolate it’s slightly bitter taste and it’s darker pigment. Tannins also help prevent cavities by inhibiting bacteria from sticking to your teeth. Polyphenols limit the effects of bacteria; 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.
HOW DOES IT ALL WORK?
If we eat a piece of dark chocolate, we’re still exposing our teeth to the sugar content. However, the compounds found in the cocoa bean husk, which is a primary ingredient in dark chocolate, help counteract the damaging effects of sugar. There’s a bacterium in your mouth called oral streptococci, which produces acid that eat 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.
DARK CHOCOLATE AND OVERALL HEALTH
Did you know that dark chocolate has 4 times more antioxidants than green tea! Dark chocolate can inhibit the production of plaque and also reduce inflammation in the body. It works to prevent periodontal disease. The bacteria associated with periodontal disease can also enter the bloodstream and cause heart disease and other cardiovascular problems, so that makes dark chocolate beneficial to heart health as well as dental health.
JUST DON’T OVERDO IT!
Enjoy some dark chocolate, just remember that dark chocolate does not equate to fruits and veggies. It does have important health benefits, but it should be consumed in moderation. It contains sugar and fat, making it a little high on the calorie count. The recommended intake is 1 ounce per day, which is equal to about 6 Hershey Kisses. Even this small amount contains as many as 150 calories, and since it tastes so good, it’s hard not to eat more than 6!
So, is chocolate good for oral health? It is, but in moderation. Following a well balanced diet of fruits, veggies, grains, and dairy is also important for both oral health and whole body health. But the good news is that you now know of a delicious and healthy option for dessert or a quick “sweet tooth” fix.