Girl eating chocolate

Enjoy your “medicine!”

Since at least 1861, when the first heart-shaped box of chocolates was sold, chocolate and Valentine’s Day have been inseparable. But these days, Valentine’s Day isn’t just about lovers, but friends and family too—they all deserve a little gift that says “I love you!”

So, what’s a health-conscious person with a long list of loved ones to do on February 14th? It turns out that chocolate really is the perfect Valentine’s gift, and not just for its great taste.

A new study shows that compounds in the husk of the cocoa bean, the main ingredient of chocolate, actually inhibit the growth of bacteria in the mouth, and slow the growth of plaque. With the other health benefits of chocolate, like its positive effect on heart health, you can feel great about giving chocolate to all the people you care about this Valentine’s Day. Your dentist approves!

Chocolate: a hug for your loved ones, a “no trespassing sign” for bacteria

Cocoa Bean Husk extract, or CBH, was found to reduce the rate of growth of nearly all cavity-causing bacterias in animal trials, and his leads to a less acidic environment in your mouth, and less damage to your enamel. The compounds found in CBH will most likely find their way into commercial dental products like toothpaste and mouthwash eventually, but for now, you can “self-medicate” by enjoying a nice bar of dark chocolate. Splitting it with someone you love is even better!

Chocolate can be good for your teeth, but not sugar!

Now that we’ve got you all excited, here’s an important detail. Many chocolate bars you see in stores have an appalling amount of added sugar. You can read all about how sugar in the mouth stimulates the growth of harmful bacteria in one of our earlier posts, but what you need to know is chocolate that has more than 6-8 grams of sugar added per serving should be avoided.

The best way to get CBH would be to chew on raw cocoa beans, but we wouldn’t recommend doing that. Without the roasting and sweetening that goes in the chocolate making process, cocoa is unpalatable. So, a bit of sugar is necessary in this case. Just be sure to stick to “dark” chocolate products that have less sugar.

Dental health is part of your overall health, and so is chocolate

Here at Gladstone Family Dentistry, we talk a lot about how we support a patient’s overall health, not just their teeth. It turns out that chocolate is good for overall health as well. According to this article in Scientific American, chocolate helps to decrease the risk of heart disease, increase insulin sensitivity, and improve the balance of health microbes in the gut. For example, participants in a study who ate dark chocolate daily lowered their blood pressure by two to three points. To explain how, a further study looked at how cocoa is digested, and found that “flavonols that include catechin and epicatechin, which are also found in green tea” decrease inflammation in the circulatory system, and therefore have a beneficial effect on heart health. Decreased inflammation is a major benefit to all of our systems!

Life is sweeter with a healthy smile!