Did you watch the Super Bowl on Sunday night? If so, you probably saw the new M&M commercial. If not—or if you want to get another laugh out of it—click here to watch it.
Pretty funny, right? Of course, being your dental health care provider, we see this commercial as not only an opportunity to laugh, but also an opportunity to discuss the effects of chocolate on your dental health, so sit back and relax as Detroit dentist Dr. Aziza Askari walks you through the world of chocolatey goodness and your teeth.
Dental Health Benefits of Chocolate
Before we tell you the dental health benefits of chocolate, we want you to remember something very important: sugar is the number one enemy of your teeth and, therefore, should be avoided as much as possible.
That being said, recent research shows that chocolate is less likely to cause dental decay than other sweet foods. In fact, studies have found that chocolate can actually protect against tooth decay.
How is this possible?
First, it’s necessary to know what tooth decay is and how it effects the mouth. To put it simply, tooth decay occurs when bacteria in the mouth turn sugar from the foods and drinks we consume into acids. These acids eat away at the tooth enamel, causing cavities and gum disease.
A study conducted at Osaka University in Japan found that the husk of the cocoa bean, which is the main ingredient in chocolate, has an anti-bacterial effect on the mouth and can, therefore, fight effectively against dental plaque and other damaging agents.
To test this theory, the researchers added an extract of cocoa bean husk to water consumed by rats. Another group of rats was exposed to Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans for short), which are plaque and tooth decay-causing oral bacteria. All of the rats in both groups were fed the same high-sugar diet.
After observing the rats for three months, the study found that the rats that had been exposed to the S. mutans developed 14 cavities on average, while the rats who drank cocoa bean husk-enhanced water had only developed an average of six cavities.
With humans targeted as the next test group for this theory, researchers are confident that their findings will remain consistent and that, one day, components of chocolate will be active ingredients in mouthwashes and toothpastes.
Applying this Sweet Knowledge
While the results of this study are remarkable, it doesn’t mean that it’s okay to toss your toothbrush and discard your dental floss. The dental benefits of chocolate are undeniable, but good oral hygiene and routine professional dental care are still the way to healthy teeth and gums and, therefore, a healthy body.
So, take Dr. Askari’s advice and avoid candy and other sugar-loaded foods and drinks as much as possible. If you do indulge, however, reach for a piece of chocolate (like the kind you’ll receive this Valentine’s Day) instead of a sticky or chewy sweet treat.