Theobromine enlarges the crystals that compose tooth enamel to four times their original size, making teeth more resistant to the acidic attack that leads to cavities.
In the study, when simulated lesions in enamel were treated with theobromine and fluoride, re-mineralization (new enamel growth) occurred at a greater rate for the theobromine group.
As far as oral hygiene implications, theobromine may be superior to fluoride because it is less toxic—there is certainly a lot of controversy about the widespread use of fluoride, especially systemically.
Theobromine, conversely, is readily absorbed and metabolized by our bodies. Before we can call theobromine a replacement for fluoride, however, many more studies will have to be done.
Why Not Just Eat Chocolate?
Is this enamel-building quality true of all chocolates or just dark chocolate?
Chocolate contains sugar, which is the culprit of tooth decay to begin with. Cocoa itself is actually bitter, so most chocolate contains large amounts of fat and sugar to mask the taste.
Dark chocolate actually does contain more theobromine than milk chocolate, although simply eating something containing the compound won’t have the same effect as applying it directly to the teeth as a paste or a mouthwash.
And don’t throw out your fluoride toothpaste just yet. Remember that the fluoride controversy mainly concerns systemically delivered fluoride (as in drinking water), not fluoride topically applied to the teeth.
But stay tuned for an increase in theobromine-related oral hygiene products as the market for holistic products expands.