Chocolate and Teeth

Chocolate Not Adverse to
Healthy Teeth

Amazingly, research on chocolate and teeth shows that chocolate has minimal impact on tooth decay. It has long been known that food containing fermentable carbohydrates such as starch or sugar is a major contributor. How often we eat these foods and how long they stay in contact with the enamel determines the likelihood of their causing cavities. The good news about chocolate and teeth research is that it shows that the naturally-occurring cocoa butter in chocolate actually helps chocolate clear the teeth more rapidly than many other foods.

What about candy and dental cavities? Candy alone does not cause cavities. Three elements contribute to cavities: a susceptible tooth, dental plaque, and food. Dentists agree that the cavity-causing potential of food is not necessarily related to sugar content, but rather to how often a food is eaten, the sequence of foods eaten and the amount of time the food remains in the mouth. Bacteria in the mouth metabolizes fermentable carbohydrates, from both sugars (e.g., candies, soda, and fruit juice) and starches (e.g., rice, pasta, bread). This produces acid that damages the protective tooth enamel and that in turn causes decay and cavities.

Although chocolate contains fermentable carbohydrates, a number of dental research studies suggest that chocolate may be less apt to promote tooth decay than has been traditionally believed. Research at the Forsyth Dental Center in Boston and at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine has shown that cocoa and chocolate have the ability to offset the acid-producing potential of the sugar they contain. Cocoa and chocolate have also been shown to reduce the demineralization process - an activity which directly results in the formation of dental caries (“tooth decay”).

In a study conducted at the Eastman Dental Center in Rochester, New York, milk chocolate and chocolate chip cookies were found to be among the snack foods that contribute least to dental decay. The researchers reported that "Milk chocolate has a high content of protein, calcium, phosphate and other minerals, all of which have exhibited protective effects on tooth enamel. In addition, due to its natural fat content, milk chocolate clears the mouth relatively faster than other candies. These factors are thought to be responsible for making milk chocolate less cariogenic (causing tooth decay).”

In sum, chocolate can be eaten as an occasional snack without worry that it has an overly adverse impact on your teeth.

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