Did you know that chewing gum can actually help to improve the health of your teeth and gums instead of hurting them? It’s true! While gum chewing used to receive a bad rap, sugarless gum has been scientifically proven to bolster optimal dental health. In fact, specific types of sugarless gum have been officially recognized by the American Dental Association for their positive effects. But what is the mechanism?
The act of chewing gum causes your mouth to produce more saliva, which helps rinse away some of the stray food particles that remain after you eat, and helps neutralize the acid that forms in your mouth when you break down food. Over time, these acids and the bacteria that thrive in the acidic environment can potentially wear down your tooth enamel and cause unwanted damage and decay. More saliva helps relieve this problem while also bringing with it more calcium and phosphate from the natural buffers in the saliva, which help to strengthen enamel and reduce your risk of a dental cavity. By chewing sugarless gum after meals for around twenty minutes, you can effectively keep your teeth cleaner than ever before!
Of course, chewing gum is not an adequate substitute or replacement for brushing and flossing. Instead, these techniques should be used in conjunction in order to ensure that your teeth and gums stay as healthy as possible. It is recommended that we brush twice a day with toothpaste containing fluoride and that we floss at least once a day. However, when we are on the go and unable to get to a toothbrush, chewing gum after meals is a great way to help protect your teeth.
The type of gum you choose is very important. Gum or candies which contain sugar have been shown to cause tooth decay by leaving sticky glycoproteins – a combination of protein and carbohydrate- which promotes plaque formation and bacterial growth. Sugar-free gum has the exact opposite effect. The special ingredient in sugar-free gum is xylitol, a natural type of sugar that is recognized as sweet by the tongue but has no calories and is not available for bacteria to use as food. Xylitol also neutralizes acid. Sugar-free gum is also great tasting and helps to freshen breath. Some are even available to help prevent stain accumulation! So consider using a sugar-free, xylitol-containing chewing gum to keep your teeth healthy on the go.