Easter is a time that is dominated by chocolate products. Many people will give and receive Easter eggs and may even be eating chocolate again after giving it up for lent. Most people will know that large quantities of chocolate are not good for your teeth (or your body), but you may be interested to hear that not all chocolate is created equal and it may actually have some benefits for your mouth. White Dental Rooms look at the problems and benefits of chocolate.
The Bad Bit:
Sugar. Milk and white chocolate, in particular, contain a very high amount of sugar and fat which is not good for your mouth, nor your waistline. When the sugar in the chocolate meets your teeth, the bacteria in your mouth produces an acid that combines with your saliva to form plaque. Plaque starts to build up after every meal and if it isn’t brushed away often enough, it can erode the hard outer enamel of the tooth, resulting in tiny holes in the surface. These holes are the first stage of cavity formation. Those holes can create a lot more serious problems if left untreated by allowing acid and bacteria to reach the lower layers of your teeth. The acid created by the bacteria in your mouth stays around for up to an hour after you eat so it is important to rinse your mouth with water, eat chewing gum to produce neutralising saliva, or ideally brush your teeth. It is better to eat chocolate in one go, rather than grazing all day and prolonging the acid production. Easter eggs normally come with a chocolate bar as well, and the ones with caramel or fondant are even worse for your teeth as the sticky filling can cling to the teeth for longer.
The Good Bit:
Cocoa. Cocoa beans which are the seed of the cocoa tree are used in making chocolate. Dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa has less adverse ingredients in it that other types because the cocoa beans contain tannins, polyphenols and flavonoids. Each of these are antioxidants that could have benefits for your mouth and teeth as one of the compounds present called theobromine helps harden tooth enamel, making teeth less susceptible to decay. Cocoa is also a good source of iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous and zinc; and the extract of the cocoa bean husk (CBH) has anti-bacterial properties which could help fight plaque. The antioxidants in cocoa could also reduce inflammation in the body to prevent periodontal disease, which can cause swelling of the gums. It is also thought that cocoa can reduce blood pressure; so the higher the cocoa and the less sugar and fat in chocolate the better it is for you.
If you are celebrating Easter with chocolate this year try not to graze on it throughout the day, and make sure you brush your teeth or drink water afterwards. Large amounts of chocolate are not good for your diet so eat it in moderation, and where possible pick dark chocolate or sugar-free alternatives.