Is Chocolate the new Fluoride?

cocoa and chocolate on white background

Not just yet, but it could be!

Fluoride and our oral health

Fluoride is commonly known as the stuff in toothpaste that helps our teeth to stay strong. What many people don’t know is that fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in the earth’s crust. It’s also found in our freshwater systems and oceans along with animals and plants we eat such as grapes and spinach.

Fluoride is absorbed into tooth enamel and helps repair teeth by replenishing lost calcium and phosphorous. This process is called remineralisation.  Fluoride is also a strong disruptor against plaque bacteria so it has excellent antibacterial qualities for helping prevent tooth decay. The past 50 to 60 years have seen the addition of fluoride to our toothpaste, mouth rinses and water supply to strengthen our tooth enamel and help make our teeth more resistant to decay.

Not all chocolate is created equal for fluoride

More recently, scientists in Japan, England and America have been investigating the presence of fluoride in pure chocolate. Not the same chocolate we buy at the supermarket but the husk of the Theobroma Cacao bean. They’ve found the Cocoa Bean Husk (CBH) inhibits the development of plaque bacteria in our mouth and is tooth strengthening. Theobroma Cacao translates to “food of the God’s” and dates back 4000 years to the ancient Mayan civilisations of the Amazon Basin in Central America.  They knew the power of this bean as it promoted energy and mental clarity.

Studies conducted in Japan showed the compound, CBH substantially declined the rates of tooth decay in rats. Furthermore, researchers have also conducted tests using CBH mouth rinses against traditionally stronger antibacterial mouth rinses containing chemicals such as Chlorhexidine. The results showed both mouth rinses to be equally effective in the reduction of the oral bacteria, Streptococcus mutans, one of the main bacteria responsible for dental decay. With modern day, high sugar diets being the main accelerator in the process of tooth decay globally, this discovery could be monumental in the fight to reduce decay rates.

It’s not time to rush out and stock up on chocolate bars just yet though! CBH is heavily processed before it becomes chocolate and therefore loses most of its dental benefits in the process.

What exactly is cocoa?

Cocoa straight from the tree has more beneficial chemicals than any other food. Rich in antioxidants, cocoa is considered to be a super food for its qualities of being anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and having anti-viral potencies. It is high in magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, zinc, copper and manganese.

Once the cocoa has been processed and roasted it changes its molecular structure, reducing the enzyme content and lowering the overall nutritional value. This processing changes raw cocoa chocolate from health food to a high-calorie indulgence.

So, just to be clear, we are not saying that milk chocolate or Snickers bars or indeed any commercial chocolate is going to have any benefits to our health or our teeth. What we are saying is that raw cocoa may be beneficial to our health. Its bitter taste can be too unpleasant to start with. Start by adding it to breakfast cereals, trail mixes, oatmeal bars, cookies or in a hot chocolate drinks. it may not only provide some health benefits but is a healthier way to get your chocolate fix.

What’s next for chocolate and fluoride?

Brushing our teeth every day with a Fluoride toothpaste has been the basis for cleaning our teeth and providing oral health prevention. Don’t be surprised if we start seeing CBH in toothpaste and mouth rinses in the coming years. Tooth decay is a disease that is, still to this day, far from eliminated but is largely preventable. It remains the most common chronic disease in our children. Our leading scientists are working hard with encouraging results in finding a cure so that we can have our chocolate cake and eat it too.

Article compiled by: Vivienne Bidaud