Tomorrow is officially National Chocolate Covered Anything Day! This is a fun and festive excuse to dip into your favorite chocolate-y treats. From fondue fruits to pretzels or even more zany combinations like chocolate-covered bacon, there are many scrumptious options. Keeping your teeth healthy can only make this day even better, since you won’t have to worry about post-chocolate cavities. In honor of National Chocolate Covered Anything Day, Dr. Cindy Flanagan and our team provide our top tips for keeping your “chocolate-covered” smile healthy and go over the surprising potential benefits of this dessert favorite for your teeth.
What is Chocolate?
You’re probably familiar with chocolate. You may have sprinkled it on ice cream, stirred it into peanut butter, or drizzled it on marshmallows. Tomorrow’s celebration is called National Chocolate Covered AnythingDay for a reason, after all. However, for all your experiential knowledge of chocolate, when it comes to this sweet substance and our teeth, it may help to better understand where chocolate comes from.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Laboratory for Chocolate Science (yes, this actually exists!) defines this treat: “chocolate is a solid mixture. In its basic form it is composed of cacao powder, cocoa butter, and some type of sweetener such as sugar; however, modern chocolate includes milk solids, any added flavors, modifiers, and preservatives.” As you can see, chocolate actually has many component parts, only one of which is cacao, “the plant matter which lends the unique taste and bitterness to chocolate.” In all likelihood, if you bit into a cacao bean, you’d spit it right out for its biting flavor. However, when crushed up with cocoa butter, sugar, and other key ingredients, the much-beloved chocolate we know is born.
This is important to note because, in many cases, it isn’t the cacao of chocolate that could have an impact on your oral health—it’s the sugar and butter that accompany it. After all, sugar makes up the majority of what we call chocolate—MIT reports that it takes up between 32 and 60 percent of typical chocolate.
Chocolate Do’s and Don’ts
How can you eat your Chocolate Covered Anything and have a healthy smile, too? Dr. Flanagan recommends that you do:
- Eat your sweets in one sitting, rather than spreading them throughout the day, so that you don’t repeatedly expose your enamel to the sugars in chocolate.
- Brush and floss your teeth after chomping on your chocolate, ideally. If you can’t get to a toothbrush, try to do something to clean your teeth, such as chewing sugar-free xylitol gum.
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. A healthy saliva flow can help wash away debris in your mouth and fend off decay.
Dr. Flanagan also advises that you don’t:
- Overdo it on portion size. Limit yourself to a single serving of chocolate.
- Eat excessively sticky, crunchy, or chewy chocolate covered foods. These are more likely to get stuck in your teeth, where they can encourage plaque formation.
- Bite down into very hard chocolates or chocolate covered goodies. For example, we wouldn’t recommend snapping off a piece of chocolate bar straight from the freezer. This could put undue pressure on your teeth.
Following these simple suggestions will help you maintain a healthy smile while you enjoy the holiday. In addition, to further avoid post-chocolate fallout, if it’s been more than six months since your last cleaning and examination, we recommend that you come in after National Chocolate Covered Anything Day for a checkup.
Could Chocolate Strengthen Your Teeth?
What if chocolate was actually good for your teeth? That would certainly be something to smile about, and it would make National Chocolate Covered Anything Day a real dental delight. Well, we’re happy to report that, yes, in fact, some forms of chocolate may be good for your teeth.
Here’s the caveat—the real benefits come from the cacao bean, not necessarily the sugary chocolate it’s made into. Underground Health Reporter explains: “Cocoa is a powerful antioxidant with natural antibacterial properties,” making it an effective defense against decay. According to “recent discoveries from the Japanese Osaka University…the outer coca bean husk (CBH)—that is normally discarded during chocolate manufacturing—is proving to have even more of these bacteria fighters.” In fact, “Arman Sadeghpour, doctoral candidate from Tulane University, discovered that theobromine found in cocoa extract may be a natural replacement for fluoride because it strengthens enamel.”
This means that eating dark chocolate (which contains a much greater proportion of cocoa than milk or white varieties, and less sugar) could provide some benefit to your teeth. How Stuff Works recommends“Hershey’s Extra Dark Chocolate” at “60 percent cocoa” or, even better, “Ghirardelli’s Twilight Delight…at 72 percent.”
These findings also suggest that we may soon end up with chocolate (or, at least cocoa) covered dental products! Underground Health Reporter predicts: “it is only a matter of time before cocoa is added to over-the-counter (OTC) toothpastes and mouthwashes.”
Do You Have More Chocolate-y Questions?
On National Chocolate Covered Anything Day, and every day, Dr. Flanagan and our team are here to answer your questions and care for your smile. To find out more or schedule an appointment, contact our Houston dental practice today.