Keep the Chocolate – and Your Teeth

Wouldn’t it be nice to indulge your junior chocoholic? (And—let’s face it—wouldn’t you like to indulge, too?) Research shows that there is no need to completely avoid this delicious treat. In fact, dark chocolate has many potential health benefits that outnumber the risks, so add it to your grocery list. Dark chocolate that is composed of at least 70% cocoa contains the following:
Polyphenols—these natural chemicals not only have anti-inflammatory properties but also inhibit bacteria growth in the mouth, reducing the chances of bad breath and cavities.
Antioxidants—while fighting cellular dysfunction, antioxidants in saliva may help battle periodontal disease … and chocolate contains four times as much antioxidant as does green tea.
Tannins—among other functions, they bind to bacteria in the mouth before those bacteria have a chance to stick to teeth and begin the plaque-formation process.
Epicatechin—this flavonoid helps fight tooth decay and has cardiac benefits as well.
Of course, there’s a catch. The dark chocolate we usually eat, whether it’s a bar, a bonbon or chocolate milk, contains plenty of sugar. And sugar is most definitely not a friend of your child’s teeth. When it lingers on tooth surfaces, sugar provides food for bacteria that produce enamel-eroding and cavity-causing acids.
To indulge healthily in dark chocolate and reap its potential benefits, your child needs one thing: a toothbrush. In addition to a usual twice-a-day brushing routine, brushing after eating sweet, sticky or starchy foods is important to prevent tooth decay. Flossing once daily is crucial to preventing cavities and gum disease, too.
The good news is that you and your child don’t have to abstain from enjoying this delicious treat. Responsibly indulging in chocolate can help keep those pearly whites shiny, bright and cavity-free.