Does dark chocolate cause cavities? The consensus up until now has been that chocolate is bad for your teeth. It is high in sugar and sugar causes cavities, right? Wrong. Sugar helps cause cavities but it is not solely responsible. A number of factors come together to create tooth decay including sugar and pathogenic oral bacteria. Pathogenic oral bacteria act upon the sugars in your mouth ingesting them and producing acid as a result. It is the acids that eat away at the enamel of your teeth forming cavities. So, the question is…is chocolate good or bad for your teeth?
While the Easter bunny hops away down the bunny trail, you’re left with the aftermath of marshmallows covered in sugar, giant rabbit-shaped chocolates, and hundreds of jelly beans. You may be wondering how you can let your children enjoy this Easter tradition without creating an oral health disaster. Chicago dentist Dr. Fondriest has tips for how to help your children enjoy Easter candy and prevent cavities.
Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate
Various research regarding chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, has indicated that a square of dark chocolate a day can lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack by almost 40 percent. Chocolate also is high in minerals such as copper, magnesium, and iron. It is high in antioxidants, and flavonoids, and can help increase good cholesterol. Research also indicates that dark chocolate may help fight the bacteria that cause cavities.
Cocoa Bean Husk
Like other natural herbs, the cocoa bean husk from cocoa beans that is used to make dark chocolate has been proven to have antibacterial properties that can combat tooth cavities. These antibacterial properties help eliminate the bad bacteria that feed upon the sugars in your oral cavity and produce harmful, enamel eating acids. By reducing harmful oral bacteria, eating chocolate can balance out the levels of sugar and bacteria in your mouth. This Japanese research study has caused chocolate to be viewed in a new light. As a result, cocoa bean husk extract is being considered for use in mouthwashes and toothpaste. The cocoa bean husk is not an ingredient in chocolate but may begin to be included due to its oral health benefits.
Dark Chocolate Bunnies are Healthier than Milk Chocolate
Excessive amounts of sugary chocolate is never good for your teeth; however, you can choose chocolate that is better for your oral health than others. Dark chocolate contains an ingredient found in cocoa that could help keep cavities away by dispersing colonies of bacteria. Tannins are natural substances that break up bacteria deposits between the teeth and gums. Dark chocolate also contains antioxidants found in flavanoids and phenols which are not only heart healthy, but may also protect your body from cancer.
Keep Your Mouth Hydrated to Curb Acid Erosion
Your child’s Easter basket is full of sweet treats that can create cavities. Sugar attacks your oral health by attracting bacteria and developing acid when it combines with saliva. The acid erodes the enamel layer on your tooth. Weak tooth enamel makes your smile to bacteria and decay as well as sensitivity to hot and cold foods. Have your children drink plenty of water between pieces of Easter candy to rinse their mouths of acid and bacteria buildup. Since bacteria thrive in a dry mouth, keeping your mouth hydrated will help protect your teeth and gums.
Use Fluoridated Toothpaste to Strengthen Enamel
All of the acid erosion and bacterial attacks on your child’s smile can create cavities. While some people believe the health of primary teeth is trivial, it is actually vital to the child’s continuing oral health. Even though primary teeth, or baby teeth, will fall out eventually, they are still vulnerable to becoming internally infected and creating toothache and sensitivity. Additionally, primary teeth are the placeholders for adult teeth to erupt later in life. A healthy start for permanent teeth depends on taking care of primary teeth. Helping your child brush regularly is essential to creating healthy oral hygiene habits and preventing cavities. Fluoridated toothpaste can help strengthen the enamel of your child’s tooth and prevent future cavities.
Don’t write off dark chocolate due to cavities
Aside from providing dependable general and restorative dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is a former adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School.