What Willie Wonka Will Be Brushing With

You'll soon be able to brush your teeth with chocolate toothpaste .. should you?

ByABC News
January 27, 2014, 2:22 PM

Jan. 28, 2014 -- "It opens with a rich, creamy cocoa flavor that provides an indulgent and decadent experience." We're not talking here about a Whitman's sampler. We're talking toothpaste.

It's how Crest describes its new, chocolate-flavored toothpaste, Mint Chocolate Trek ($4.99), which will hit stores the first week of February.

"Got an adventurous spirit or a sweet tooth?" asks Crest in a release about the product. "Well, then this is the toothpaste for you. Now consumers can explore outside their boundaries, arouse their senses and energize their brushing routine like never before."

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The flavor is one of three new ones (Vanilla Mint Spark and Lime Spearmint Zest are the other two) that constitute Crest's new "Be" line of toothpaste, which provides, Crest says, not just a mouthful of foam but a transformative experience.

Could chocolate-flavored toothpaste possibly be good for your teeth? Isn't this an idea on a par with, say, reduced-fat lard or vitamin cigarettes?

It all depends, said Bennett T. Amaechi, DDS, MS, PhD, Associate Professor and Director of Cariology (meaning cavities) at the Department of Comprehensive Dentistry at the University of Texas. He may not have written a literal book on cavities, but he has written innumerable papers on such topics as "Remineralization of Artificial Enamel Lesions by Theobromine."

Theobromine, found in chocolate, is a component of cocoa.

It has long been an accepted fact of dental life that theobromine is good for teeth, Amaechi told ABC News. It doesn't just protect them from cavities, it repairs cavities. There's already a line of toothpaste on the market containing it (Theodent).

Dr. Allan Melnick, a dentist in Encino, Calif., wrote on his practice's blog that other components of chocolate are good for you -- either for your teeth or for your health overall. They include polyphenols (antioxidants and anti-inflammatories) and cocoa butter, which reduces the ability of plaque to stick to teeth by coating them, he noted.

Does Mint Chocolate Trek contain any of these ingredients? No, said John Scarchilli, head of Scientific Communications for Proctor & Gamble, Crest's parent company.

Trek contains chocolate flavoring only. It owes its tooth-protecting properties to sodium fluoride -- the same ingredient found in original Crest and many another toothpaste.

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While Crest's new paste may not provide anything new in terms of protection, the experience it delivers is unprecedented, said Scarchilli. "You don't expect to find chocolate toothpaste in the aisle. It's something beyond the everyday sea of mint."

The product's inspiration, he said, came from customers who told Crest they found toothpaste kind of boring. They said they wanted to be surprised and to have fun, if only for a minute or two in the morning when brushing.

Getting the flavor right, however, was easier said than done, he said. "It was difficult to make something chocolate lovers could love. We actually use a proprietary flavoring-and-cooling technology that delays the onset of the mint, to let the chocolate make the first impression. Holding back the mint long enough -- 30 to 40 seconds -- lets the chocolate be decadent and satisfying."

Matthew Messina, DDS, consumer advisor for the American Dental Association, says, "I have no idea whether the public will embrace chocolate as a toothpaste flavor. What's most important is that people brush for two minutes twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste -no matter what the flavor - and I tell my patients to look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance when choosing their toothpaste.