rauwe-cacaoWell, not really,

but it does appear that a chemical found in cacao extract may be a powerful aid to improve dental hygiene through good brushing practices.

You can’t brush your teeth with chocolate or eat it to improve the health of your teeth, but you may soon be able to brush your teeth with theobromine instead of fluoride, and not worry about swallowing your toothpaste or ingesting fluoride, while enjoying many times more protection for your teeth.

Though toothpastes have undergone many innovations in flavor, teeth-whitening and sensitivity treatments over the years, all current ADA approved toothpastes today contain one major cavity fighting ingredient – fluoride. Unfortunately fluoride is poisonous to consume and benefits only the enamel and dentin in your teeth. Dentists always tell you not to swallow your toothpaste and to rinse out your mouth because fluoride can cause neurological and endocrine dysfunction and a disruption of enzymes in body tissues leading to adverse health effects. Basically fluoride is a neurotoxin that is not healthy for you but happens to build a layer of protection on enamel while helping to remineralize teeth and keep them healthy.

But that’s all we’ve got to work with, until now!

Recent studies show that an ingredient of chocolate can help prevent tooth decay and also provide a much stronger layer of protection on enamel than fluoride, and in much lower concentrations. Theobromine, a chemical found in pure cacao, or chocolate, promises to help keep your teeth more healthy and protected than fluoride ever could. Some studies show that occlusions, or tiny facets or holes in your enamel that expose the dentin and cause hypersensitivity, can be completely filled in and protected with a much thicker layer than fluoride could provide. One study showed that the layer of protection could be about 4 times thicker, up to 2 microns thick, which is about 10,000 times as thick as a strand of hair, but 4 times thicker than fluoride could provide. It has been shown that within 3-4 days and up to a week of brushing twice daily with Theodent — the only toothpaste currently available with theobromine — teeth showed a 100% coverage of enamel occlusions. This is far better protection than fluoride has ever provided teeth, and could be a major breakthrough in dental health and science. Flouride has never been shown to provide 100% protection, and in one study, a Colgate fluoride toothpaste showed only a 3% occlusion coverage rate over 4 days of use compared to 100% coverage by theobromine treatment. That’s really promising.

Now you might think this study would mean you could just eat chocolate every day and your teeth would be healthy from now on, but that is totally false and misleading: theobromine is basically a cacao extract, and is a very bitter chemical found in real chocolate, or cacao – the bitter stuff you might cook with or find at Whole Foods, not the traditional chocolate that has plenty of sugars in it to make it sweeter. Even chewing on cacao chips won’t give you the same benefits, as it will still cause some plaque, and it would be really bitter, so don’t try that. Chocolate and cacao do have other benefits for your health; for one they contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatories which promote good health and fight aging, but don’t think you’re going to brush with chocolate from now on and get away with it!

The ADA’s list of approved toothpastes still doesn’t have Theodent listed today, two years after it hit the shelves in stores, so perhaps the science isn’t all in yet, or there’s major push-back from fluoride toothpaste makers, but it certainly looks like chocolate could replace fluoride someday or at least compete with it, and may be a much safer and healthier product for human use. (Theodent is currently the only available toothpaste containing cacao extract and not fluoride.)

While you and your family are still using fluoride products, please make sure that you don’t use flavored toothpastes like bubble-gum flavor, as they tend to encourage your kids to eat or swallow their toothpaste because it tastes so good. Make sure they understand the dangers of swallowing their toothpaste, and how important it is to rinse and spit afterwards to reduce the accumulation of fluoride in their body tissues.

The studies supporting theobromine are limited at this time, but it looks hopeful that products like Theodent toothpaste may provide ever more protection for your teeth than fluoride ever could, and it wouldn’t be harmful if swallowed. We’ll keep an eye on this for you and let you know when it’s fully proven and accepted by the ADA.