Chew on This – Gum is GREAT for Your Teeth (Some of it at Least)
Written by Consumer Guide to Dentistry Last modified on November 21, 2017
Sugar-free chewing gum has gained popularity over the years as consumers have been made increasingly aware of its benefits. The sugar-free aspect aside, the simple act of chewing is beneficial as it promotes the flow of saliva in the mouth which helps to neutralize acids. Acids are produced as food is broken down while eating. By chewing sugar-free gum after meals, you’re helping to restore the pH balance in the mouth and wash away any lingering food debris that could foster plaque.
Sugar is the enemy of teeth. Harmful oral bacteria feed off the sugars we eat, leaving decay-causing acids in their wake. High-sugar diets therefore put you at risk of tooth decay and potential tooth loss. Sugar-laden sodas and candies are particularly bad for your teeth, so it might surprise you to learn that chewing gum can be beneficial (since most people consider gum a form of candy). Well gum certainly can be just as bad (if not worse) for your teeth as soda and candy, but only if it has sugar in it.
In addition to helping prevent cavities, sugarless gum has been shown to actually help strengthen tooth enamel, the protective outer layer shielding teeth from damage. Saliva is packed with calcium and phosphate which help to re-mineralize teeth, strengthening the enamel coating and preventing acidic erosion. There also have been studies suggesting that chewing sugarless gum after in-office teeth whitening can help reduce tooth sensitivity. Again, this boils down to the activation of saliva and its protective, restorative properties.
Certain chewing gums are so beneficial to dental health that they bear the ADA Seal of Acceptance, which means that the American Dental Association has carefully evaluated the safety and efficacy of the product and approved its benefits. There are hundreds of different brands and flavors to chews from, essentially relegating gum with sugar to the backseat. (Check out a list of approved gums.)
You may also have heard of the buzz surrounding xylitol — a natural sweetener and sugar substitute — and its dental benefits, particularly its ability to prevent tooth decay by inhibiting the growth of bacteria. But studies evaluating the benefits of xylitol have not found a conclusive link, suggesting instead that xylitol gums do not offer any additional dental benefit than other sugar-free products.
It should also be noted that chewing gum should in no way be seen as a substitute for regular brushing and flossing. It’s merely a supplement to your dental care routine. If you get in the habit of chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after meals, you will greatly increase your protection against tooth decay.
As the old saying goes, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Turns out the odd stick of sugar-free gum just might keep the dentist at bay as well.