Is chocolate good for your teeth? When asked, most people would probably respond with a resounding “No!”. For the most part, they would be right. Milk chocolate, which is arguably the most popular variety, contains a lot of added sugar that can feed the bacteria in your mouth, eroding enamel and leading to tooth decay, gum disease, and even worse.
However, it turns out that not all chocolate is created equally, as anyone who has ever sampled unsweetened baking cocoa is probably well aware. Dark chocolate has significantly less sugar than its milkier cousin, and the bittersweet cacao can even be good for your teeth. Here’s what you need to know the next time you find yourself perusing the candy aisle in search of a chocolate fix.
In case you didn’t know, the difference between milk and dark chocolate revolves around the cacao content, and it could be significant. Generally speaking, milk chocolate has cacao content of roughly 35-40%, but it could be as low as only about 10% in some cases. Dark chocolate, by comparison, generally has about 70-99% cacao, although some manufacturers insist on calling anything with 50% or more cacao dark chocolate.
If you’re looking for a semisweet snack that’s healthy for your teeth, you must look for chocolate that is at least 70% cacao or above, at least if you want to gain health benefits for your teeth. Just as a side note, you’ll also want to avoid white chocolate, which has zero cacao – it’s made with cocoa butter and a lot of sugar.
What makes dark chocolate good for your teeth? It’s a compound called CBH that has been shown to harden tooth enamel. This is the protective outer layer of teeth that stops bacteria from getting at the softer tooth tissue and causing decay. In addition, compounds found in the husks of cocoa beans are effective at fighting bacteria, meaning you’ll get a double whammy of plaque-fighting power any time you choose dark chocolate over sweeter confections.
Like all good things, there is a caveat. You can’t eat dark chocolate all the livelong day and expect it to be good for your health. Doctors recommend eating no more than 3-4 ounces of dark chocolate per day if you want to enjoy its many health (and oral health) benefits. When you overindulge, you risk doing more harm than good and overshadowing the potential benefits of dark chocolate.