Biting into a sugary chocolate bar may not be the best choice for healthy teeth. But a Louisiana-based company is taking the stand that not all cocoa-based products are equal.
Theodent has introduced the new dental product containing a cocoa extract and other minerals that developers say strengthens and hardens tooth enamel.
The toothpaste, which was unveiled in January, is called Theodent and it contains no fluoride. CEO Arman Sadeghpour said the cocoa extract-based product will revolutionize the way people think about toothpaste.
“We want people to value the experience of brushing their teeth more,” he said. “They should care more about what they put in their mouths. Up till now it’s all been sodium fluoride or fluoride-based. We’ve been brushing our teeth twice a day with one of the most toxic elements in the periodic table.”
Sadeghpour worked on the research behind the toothpaste while he was a doctoral student at Tulane University. His mentor Dr. Tetsuo Nakamoto, a co-founder of Theodent and a professor emeritus at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, first studied the concept.
Nakamoto discovered the link between the cocoa extract and building tooth enamel in the 1980s when he was studying the effects of various nutritional ingredients on pre-natal teeth.
Nakamoto, with assistance from researchers at the University of New Orleans, found that the cocoa- extract helped fight cavities.
“It (cocoa) had the exact opposite effect (from what Nakamoto expected),” said Sadeghpour. “It makes these units of crystal (of teeth) larger. That works to strengthen the enamel of the teeth.”
Sadeghpour’s work verified the possibilities for the extract when he tested the findings on human teeth. He made a direct comparison between the cocoa extract and fluoride and found that the cocoa extract enlarges the crystals that form the teeth, resulting in a stronger enamel. Fluoride strengthens enamel by attaching to it and incorporating itself into the tooth.
According to Sadeghpour, Clifton Carey of the American Dental Association verified his results. Sadeghpour and Nakamoto, along with University of New Orleans professor William Simmons and Tulane School of Medicine assistant professor Joseph Fuselier, decided they could commercialize a product. They developed the proprietary mixture of cocoa and other minerals what are the active ingredients in the toothpaste, and founded Theodent.
The paste, which sells for $9.99 a tube, has been introduced in 171 Whole Foods stores and dental offices throughout the country. The first batch of 6,252 tubes sold out in the first three weeks, Sadeghpour said.
Unlike what one might expect, the paste has a mint, not chocolate taste. The company wants to develop a sugar-free paste with a chocolate flavor to appeal to children.
“Kids really want it to taste like chocolate,” Sadeghpour said. “We’re in a position to provide them with that.”
The company wants to expand its line in the future by also offering dental floss and mouthwash.
Part of the fun of introducing the product has been doing the marketing. The paste comes in chocolate brown or white packaging with ornate bronze lettering which Sadeghpour said they chose because they want the packaging to stand out against the blaring red, blue and white colors of standard toothpaste brands.
Though it’s possible to buy other toothpastes for as little as a $1 a tube, he said he thinks consumers will be willing to spend $9.99 for a package of Theodent.
He said he thinks consumers are ready to re-think what they think about toothpaste, and Theodent is ready to lead the way.
“Toothpaste hasn’t changed in 100 years,” he said. “We’re the new kid on the block and we have a new technology. We have to change the mindset of how people view toothpaste. It’s more of an oral healthcare therapy.”