Posted by: Dealon Dental - A DC Dental Company | July 2, 2012

Chocolate can actually be good for your teeth! For real!

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Yes, you read that correctly — chocolate can actually help prevent tooth decay. However, not every kind of chocolate is potentially your teeth’s best friend. In actuality, it is the cocoa bean that houses the beneficial 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 (not to mention your heart and vascular health as well!). 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, working 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. (For example,Ghirardelli’s Twilight Delight is 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.)

So how, exactly, is dark chocolate good for your teeth? In all of our mouths, there iss a bacterium 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 not only inhibits the production of plaque but also reduces inflammation in the body and works 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, in moderation, is beneficial to your heart health as well.

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.

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