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Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day! Many of us will munch on delicious chocolates and enjoy the company of those we love. Because it’s about to be the unofficial chocolate holiday of the U.S, we thought we would take a moment here at Gladstone Family Dentistry to share the oral health benefits of different chocolates.

Dark chocolate treats are not created equal.

Although we wish all dark chocolate were healthy for you and your teeth, that simply isn’t the case. A dark chocolate treat with less than 70 percent cocoa content usually incorporates too much sugar to have real health benefits.

But, that means those of you who absolutely adore the really rich, pure dark chocolate are in luck! Dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa in it contains components that contribute to dental health, including:

Antioxidants – These inhibit the growth of some common oral bacteria and can counter the effect of acid production in your mouth.

Tannins – This substance is also in teas and wine. It works to stop bacteria from sticking to tooth enamel.

Polyphenols –  A chemical which inhibits bacteria growth and helps to prevent bacteria from turning sugars into acids. This chemical also has overall health benefits by working as an anti-inflammatory.

An excellent way to enjoy dark chocolate during chilly weather (like Gladstone’s recent “snowpocalypse”) is to melt it in hot milk. Milk has a high level of calcium, which is a building block for teeth. Just remember, if you’re hoping to get the health benefits of dark chocolate in this homemade hot chocolate, you can’t use sugary, premade hot chocolate powder.

While you may be thinking “this means I’m home free – give me all of the chocolate!” we are asking you to enjoy your favorite dark chocolate treats in moderation. Remember, even though there are health benefits found in chocolate, it’s still a very high-calorie food.

Milk and white chocolate don’t make the grade

Both milk and white chocolates are higher in milk content and milk fat than dark chocolate, lowering their cocoa content. In fact, white chocolate doesn’t contain cocoa solids at all – just cocoa butter.

Even though there is milk – which means added calcium – in both milk and white chocolate, the added sugar and fat makes these tasty treats a poor choice for a daily snack. It’s a better idea to sip on some milk and eat an ounce of dark chocolate if you’re hoping to keep your teeth happy with your snack choice.

However, we know that, since it’s Valentine’s Day, you probably aren’t eating chocolate for your health. So, be sure to enjoy sweets in moderation today, and remember to brush your teeth or rinse your mouth after snacking – and keep up your regular dental cleanings. These are your best options for keeping your mouth plaque-free.