Is chewing gum good for your dental health?

Can chewing gum be healthy?

There have been several clinical studies showing that chewing sugarless gum for at least 20 minutes following meals can aid in helping fight against tooth decay. When you chew sugarless gum, it increases the flow of saliva in the mouth and helps wash away food particles. Increased amounts of saliva, which contains the disease-fighting substances of calcium and phosphate, is carried throughout the mouth serving to strengthen tooth enamel as it washes away harmful bacteria and debris and neutralizes cavity-causing acids.

What kind of chewing gum is best for your teeth?

Patients ask Drs. Hochberg & Diora, and our team of dental hygienists, which chewing gum is best. Be sure to look for the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal on the wrapper to ensure that you are purchasing a truly sugar-free gum. Most commonly, the sugar-free gums approved by the ADA contain the following as non-cavity producing sweeteners:  aspartame, xylitol, sorbitol or mannitol. These sugars are commonly referred to as sugar alcohols.

What exactly are sugar alcohols? Sugar alcohols are naturally occurring acids that are found in some foods; they typically come from fruits and berries. Many consumers choose these sweeteners, as they want fewer calories. Sugar alcohols can contain about a half to a third less calories than regular sugar. But, it’s not only our waistline that dictates selecting sugar-free chewing gum. Oftentimes gums that are not sugar-free contain sugars, preservatives, dyes, and artificial flavorings, which are slowly released into the mouth. When they mix with saliva, like all sugars, this liquid bath becomes one of the prime contributors to the development of dental decay.

Are there risks in chewing gum, even if it’s sugar-free?

There is such a thing as ‘too much of a good thing’. And it’s the same with chewing any gum. In excess, gum chewing, even if it doesn’t contain cavity-causing sugars, can be problematic to certain individuals. After a meal is finished and our stomach has processed the food, it rests. If gum chewing takes place for extended time periods, the stomach doesn’t have the opportunity to take a break; it’s still working hard to process the excess salvia produced during gum chewing. This can create stomach issues. And, there are those who are allergic or sensitive to artificial sweeteners. They are not all the same and care must be taken in selecting one that agrees with your digestive system. And, let’s not forget the jaw joint. Many have experienced times when their TMJ (temporomandibular joint) is painful, called TMD (temporomandibular joint dysfunction). Gum chewing can cause, or exacerbate the problem.

So, while chewing sugarless gum for short time periods – instead of regular gum – can decrease the risk dental cavities, like everything, it should not be in excess. And it does not take the place of a healthy diet, avoidance of sugary drinks and foods, or a home health care regimen that includes regular twice a day brushing, with fluoridated toothpaste, and flossing. And, of course, periodic dental examinations, oral cancer screenings and dental hygiene visits with your Colony Square Dental Associates’ hygienist, round out the picture.

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