An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but what does chocolate do for your relationship with your dentist?
Chocolate is delicious, and it can be hard to stop eating it once you start. It’s even more challenging when Halloween arrives, and we suddenly find our homes filled with trick-or-treat candy. However, making a habit of eating chocolate can lead to serious health issues, not just for your body but for your smile.
Sugar and Tooth Decay
Cacao beans are bitter, which is why milk and white chocolates rely so heavily on sugar to make them so sweet and tasty. When sugar attracts oral bacteria that, when they come into contact with saliva, create dental plaque. Plaque contains acids, and the longer it stays on your teeth, the more these acids can wear away your tooth’s enamel. This tooth decay will eventually break through the enamel and form a hole or cavity, exposing the tooth’s inner layers to infection.
The average person gets four to ten cavities in their entire lifetime. However, with sugars speeding up the decay process, people with a sweet tooth can develop that many in the six months between dental cleanings. Baby teeth, which have thinner enamel, are especially prone to cavities. Buying them chocolate bars at the supermarket checkout or letting them eat their Halloween haul in a few days can mean a painful toothache in their near future.
What Does A Decayed Tooth Look Like?
Tooth decay isn't very noticeable at first. When plaque and bacteria are still working away at your enamel, decay shows itself only as chalky white spots on teeth. These spots are signs of demineralization as bacteria and plaque strip your enamel of its defenses. They can darken over time as decay continues attacking your teeth, become brown or even black.
After a cavity is created, your decay will be noticeable as a physical pit in the tooth's surface. For decay near or at the gum line, the hole might not be easy to spot. However, bacteria also start attacking the gums, causing them to redden, swell, and bleed.
There are other warning signs of a decayed tooth beyond the visible:
Painful toothache that may either be constant or come and go
Bad breath that won’t go away
Recurring unpleasant taste in your mouth
Sensitivity to hot and cold or sweets
Can You Reverse Tooth Decay?
Decay can only be reversed if a cavity hasn't formed. Fluoride treatments can remineralize the tooth and return it to full health. However, once a cavity develops, it will continue working its way through the rest of your tooth until the entire inner tooth is destroyed. At that point, you will need emergency dental treatment.
Dental fillings are needed when a cavity is still relatively small. The infected and decayed dental tissue is removed and the tooth disinfected. Composite resin will fill the pit left behind and restore your tooth's shape and function.
A dental crown is needed for more extensive damage, covering most of a tooth's surface. After the decayed parts of the tooth are removed, this crown will cap the entire tooth to recreate the feel of your original enamel and bite.
If decay reaches the sensitive dental pulp, then a root canal is needed to remove the infected tissue. In some cases, the tooth must be cleared down to the root. This procedure can also drain any dental abscesses that have formed. Once the tooth is decay-free, it is filled and reinforced with either a filling or crown.
Once decay becomes bad enough, all tooth pain will suddenly disappear, but you shouldn’t be relieved. The pulp has become so heavily damaged that the central nerves no longer work. Without a quick and responsive root canal, the tooth will die. If this happens, our Bellflower dentists will need to remove it via extraction. Otherwise, the infection can spread to the surrounding teeth and gums.
Is Dark Chocolate Good For You?
Dark chocolate is the “healthy chocolate” for a reason, and it’s not just as an excuse for people with sweet teeth to have a square or two a day. Eating it can have a range of health benefits, from helping prevent heart disease and stroke to improved memory and brain function. But what makes this type of chocolate so much better for you than others? The secret lies in one essential ingredient: cacao.
Cacao beans contain antioxidants, specifically tannins, polyphenols, and flavonoids, that help keep your teeth safe from cavity-causing oral bacteria and plaque. Tannins make it difficult for plaque to collect on your teeth. Polyphenols directly fight bacteria, limiting their effect on your teeth and gums. They also can prevent some sugars from turning into harmful acids. And flavonoids slow down tooth decay, giving your dentist more time to act.
Sugar and cacao’s effects on your smile directly oppose each other, and both milk and dark chocolates contain both. So at what point does cacao overcome sugar and become as good of a cavity fighter as fluoride? Milk chocolate is mostly sugar and powdered milk, with only 10 to 12% actual cacao. On the opposite end of the spectrum, milk’s more bitter sibling is primarily cacao, often between 50 to 90%. However, for dark chocolate to effectively prevent tooth decay, studies show that it must be at least 70% cacao.
Does this mean that you should go to the nearest supermarket and bulk-buy dark chocolate bars to snack on throughout the day? Not at all. Too much of a good thing, as tasty as it might be, can still turn bad. This sweet treat still has plenty of sugar and fat, so moderation is key for maintaining a healthy diet.
Stains and Yellowing
Milk chocolate beats dark chocolate in one way, though not by much: teeth stains. Teeth aren't solid but porous. Over time, they absorb the pigments and coloration of the foods we eat, leading to unappealing, yellow teeth. By its very name, dark chocolate has a richer and deeper color, so frequently eating it can quickly stain your pearly whites.
How Do Dentists Whiten Teeth?
A popular way to eliminate some yellowing and staining is to use store-bought whitening strips. While the most affordable option, it's not very powerful. Generic products rely on weaker peroxide, so they can only brighten teeth by a couple of shades over weeks or even months. For the best teeth whitening, you'll need to see your dentist. With our help, you can remove more than a decades-worth of discoloration and chocolate stains.
The first and most efficient way to whiten your teeth is with an in-house teeth whitening. A cosmetic dentist will apply high-grade bleaching gel to your teeth, making sure to avoid your gums. With a UV light or laser, we can activate the peroxide and give you a fast and effective whitening. In a single hour-long session at our Bellflower dental office, you can lighten your smile by more than half a dozen shades.
Professional Teeth Whitening Kit
If you want to brighten your smile in the comfort of your own home, you can instead try a professional whitening kit. Using scans taken of your mouth, a cosmetic dentist can make custom trays that perfectly fit your teeth. A little bit of leeway is given, so you have room to apply the dental-grade peroxide we provide you. You'll wear these trays for 30 minutes to an hour each day, or you can put them on overnight.
The one disadvantage at-home kits have compared to office sessions is that they take a bit longer. You’ll still be able to get the same pearly white teeth, but it will take a week or two rather than a single session.
Why Won't My Teeth Whiten?
Professional whitening bleach doesn’t go deeper than the enamel to ensure your teeth’s inner dentin and pulp stay untouched and unharmed. However, not all yellowing is surface-level, especially as we grow older. Teeth enamel wears down over time, bringing the darker dentin closer to the surface.
However, there are other ways to brighten your smile and even remove the deepest stains. Porcelain veneers and tooth bonding do this by changing and reimagining a tooth's entire look. They don't exclusively focus on teeth whitening, but instead fix a wide variety of cosmetic problems:
Minor cracks and chips
Slightly crooked or uneven teeth
Gaps between teeth
Irregularly shaped teeth (lumps, bulges, shortness, etc.)
Wear and tear
With dental bonding, a cosmetic dentist applies composite resin to enamel, shaping it how we want. As this composite is the same material used in fillings, we can choose the exact shade and color we want. With dental veneers, we instead use thin porcelain shells for more dramatic and longer-lasting changes. Before beginning, we’ll consult with you first to ensure you’re in love with your new and improved smile.