The Benefits of Chewing Gum
Learn how chewing gum can benefit your smile.
How Can Chewing Sugar-Free Gum Help Me
Aside from what might seem like the obvious benefit of chewing gum to sweep up some of the food particles left on your teeth after eating, there are additional benefits you can't even see with your eyes.
It all starts with bacteria. Bacteria naturally live in our mouths, in the plaque on our teeth. When we eat, tiny food particles linger on our teeth. When the bacteria in plaque feeds on these food particles, acid is produced. This acid can soften the protective enamel, putting teeth at risk for cavities. Chewing sugar-free gum increases the production of saliva, which is a natural antacid and can help:
- Neutralize the acid produced by bacteria
- Wash away harmful bacteria
- Neutralize acids present in the mouth stemming from acid reflux and heartburn
Does it Matter What Kind of Gum I Chew?
It does. Unfortunately, not all gum is created equally. Many of the sweetest and most flavorful gums contain sugar, or sucrose. Sucrose is exactly the type of food that the bacteria in our mouths love to eat, so to reduce bacteria and prevent acid production, which softens your enamel, it is best to stick with a sugar-free option. Granted, being labelled "sugar free" or "sugarless" doesn't necessarily mean that the gum will be free of all sugar. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has advised that foods can be labeled as such only if they contain less than 0.5 grams of sugar per labeled serving. To be safe, look for sugarless gum with the American Dental Association Seal that contains non-cavity causing sweeteners. These sugar-free gums use sweeteners that bacteria don't like to eat, such as:
- Sugar alcohols (sorbitol, xylitol or mannitol)
- Artificial sweeteners (aspartame, saccharin, or stevia)
The flavor of gum you choose can also have an impact on the benefits you could experience from chewing gum. For example, orange, lemon, or other citrus flavoring could be high in citric acid, making your saliva's job as an acid buster an uphill battle.
Are There Any Risks to Chewing Gum?
Besides negating some of the benefits of chewing gum by selecting a gum with sugar or a high acid content, the risks are minimal. Some types of gum can stick to certain dental work, like bridges. However, some brands of gum are specifically formulated to prevent this. Check with your dentist to get their recommendation of gum brand if you are concerned. Also, those who experience jaw pain or issues with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) may feel a flare-up when chewing gum for long periods of time, so you should discuss with your dentist before taking up a gum-chewing habit.
Benefits from Gum?
We know it seems too good to be true. Many of us think of chewing gum along the lines of candy and we all know that candy doesn't have many benefits for our teeth. Sugar-free gum, on the other hand, does have some benefits.
When Should I Chew Gum?
You'll experience the most benefit from chewing gum if you do so after you eat. This will help reduce plaque, food particles and decay-producing bacteria before they become harmful to your tooth enamel.
Note: The information in this document is not meant to replace the advice of your dentist or another licensed healthcare professional. Talk to your dentist for any specific dental advice.