When you want to “treat yo’self,” dark chocolate might be the best answer. There has been plenty of debate over whether dark chocolate is actually good for your teeth. While it is generally true that candy generally doesn’t mix well with keeping teeth healthy, dark chocolate can actually be a cavity fighter. But the issue isn’t so black and white.
The short answer
While milk chocolate contains the combination of sugar and milk that can contribute to tooth decay, studies have shown that when it comes to satisfying your sweet tooth, the ingredients in dark chocolate can actually be beneficial your oral health. Just remember to eat it in moderation.
Keep it real
A key takeaway from this debate is that when it comes to your chocolate choice, “real” chocolate is better. In other words, dark chocolate, which is 70% cocoa, is much better for your oral health in the long run than milk chocolate, which contains more sugar and milk to sweeten it.
The best choice is “real” dark chocolate with less than 6-8 grams of sugar per serving – organic if possible. Raw chocolate is even a better choice, as it is less processed, and more of the antioxidants are left intact. Be aware that chocolate is a calorie-rich food, so modify your calorie intake accordingly.
The benefits of dark chocolate
“Real” chocolate has a good source of polyphenols, natural chemicals that can limit oral bacteria. They are also able to neutralize microorganisms that cause bad breath and prevent some bacteria from turning sugar and starches into acid, which love to wreck havoc on your teeth.
Dark chocolate also contains a flavonoid compound called epicatechin. Flavonoids, a group of plant-based antioxidants, have been shown to slow tooth decay.
Tannins are plant compounds that give dark chocolate its slightly bitter taste and dark color. They have been shown to help stop bacteria from sticking to teeth because their molecules bind to bacteria before plaque has time to form. At the same time, however, those tannins can stain your teeth. If you’re using whitening strips, keep in mind they can weaken your enamel, so eating something with a lot of tannins in it, like chocolate, can undermine your efforts!
Antioxidants are a group of molecules that keep your body healthy on a cellular level. In fact, dark chocolate can contain up to four times the level found in green tea. High amounts of antioxidants in saliva have been shown to fight periodontal disease.
Sound too good to be true? Here’s what one study says:
“Consuming a cocoa-enriched diet could diminish periodontitis-induced oxidative stress, which, in turn, might suppress the progression of periodontitis.”
- J Periodontol. 2009 Nov; 80(11): 1799-808.
The bottom line
If you’re going to eat chocolate, make it dark chocolate. Like any sweet treat, it should be consumed in moderation: about one ounce (150 calories) per day. And of course, a chocolate bar is no excuse to skip brushing for at least two minutes twice a day!
The American public is flooded with health news every day. Some of it is sensationalist, some of it is valid, and others should be taken with a grain of salt. Do your research, and don’t change your health habits based on one headline. If you have questions about what is or is not good for your teeth, it’s best to give our office a call at 541-548-8175 and get the answers you want straight from the source.