Scientists have discovered that theobromine, a compound that naturally occurs in chocolate, is better at hardening tooth enamel than fluoride. Most toothpaste manufacturers add fluoride to their products because it strengthens enamel and therefore reduces the risk of cavities. Could eating chocolate have the same effect on teeth?
How Theobromine Protects Teeth
Theobromine and fluoride have very similar effects on tooth enamel. Both compounds cause minerals to form crystals, known as apatite, on the surface of the teeth. These crystals can merge with the tooth enamel to reverse the effects of acid erosion, which thins and weakens enamel. When the outer part of the tooth is coated with a thick layer of enamel, it is harder for bacteria to reach the sensitive inner parts of the tooth, where they can attack the nerve, causing pain and tooth decay.
Is Chocolate the Answer?
Although chocolate contains theobromine, it also contains substances that are harmful for teeth. Most chocolate contains a lot of sugar, which feeds the oral bacteria that are responsible for damaging tooth enamel and causing cavities. Therefore, eating chocolate is not a substitute for brushing your teeth. In fact, eating more chocolate could increase your risk of tooth decay because it exposes your teeth to high levels of sugar.
Is All Chocolate Harmful?
If you want to indulge in chocolate without harming your dental health, the best option is to choose very dark chocolate, which has a high concentration of theobromine-containing cocoa and relatively little sugar. In a trend that dentists might approve of, demand for premium dark chocolate is growing all over the world, as customers wake up to the negative health effects of sugar. It is even possible to buy chocolate that is 100% cocoa, with no added sugar at all, but most people find the taste overpowering.
Compared with eating chocolate, a more effective way to make the most of theobromine's ability to remineralise tooth enamel could be to extract it from cocoa beans and use it in dental products in place of fluoride. Some manufacturers are already taking this approach. A toothpaste containing chocolate extract is already available in Canada and the United States. This toothpaste is popular with people who worry about the possible health effects of fluoride. Most dentists believe that fluoride is safe and vital for dental health, but there can be side effects if someone swallows large quantities of toothpaste. Theobromine-based toothpaste is also safe to swallow.
To learn more about theobromine and its effects on your teeth, talk to dentists like The Happy Tooth Kurri Kurri.