Why a pediatric dentist is recommending dark chocolate?

As a pediatric dentist and mom why do I recommend dark chocolate?  Chocolate contains lots of theobromine, which is actually great for teeth and rich in antioxidants. The greatest concentration of this ingredient is in our 70% or darker chocolates. There’s even a toothpaste based on this called Theodent. In addition to containing theobromine, dark chocolate melts at mouth temperature, which means very little remains stuck to teeth to form plaque. So dark chocolate–especially 70% or greater–is tooth friendly!  Celebrate National Children’s Dental Health Month and Valentines Day by enjoying tooth-friendly and delicious dark chocolate treats!

As a child I grew up in India where sweets are in abundance, and I LOVED them.  Sweets in India aren’t just sweet. They are SWEET {Eyes bulging}. One of my favorite was a dessert made of fried dough balls that are soaked in saturated sugar water, then slowly cooked to gooey-syrupy perfection.  My mouth is watering right now. My palate is still drawn to ultra-sweet sweets. And that’s my challenge.  But there are so many people I meet who love dark chocolate (they have more refined tastes than me!), and usually these same people do not love the ultra-sweet.  In my practice, I can see how often kids who love the ultra-sweet flavors tend to have more cavities.  So this made me curious. Is loving dark chocolate a learned behavior or are we hard wired (by our genes) to like certain things? I will continue to test this out starting off with my own kids. 🙂

My hypothesis is if we start our children on dark chocolates, instead of super sweet, sour or sticky candies like sour gummies, we are off to a great start. Here are a few tips:

  1. Small bites go a long way! Try getting a bag of dark chocolate baking chips. This is the best toddler reward I have used with my own! Lets be real, getting our toddlers to listen is tough, but this is something that helped a lot when I was getting my little one potty trained.
  2. If you reward with a treat, treat them after dinner. With my little one, we would keep count of how many dark chocolate chips she earned and let her have them after dinner.  That way you know a tooth-brushing is coming soon after. Bonus tip: night-time brushing is most important, since your mouth doesn’t produce as much tooth-protecting saliva while you’re asleep.

Please help share these tips with parents you know, especially if they have little ones. These suggestions may not work for everyone but if you are concerned about sugar, this is a great way to start off.

-Dr Jenny Citineni, Proud Mom of 2