Chewing gum can be traced back centuries throughout many cultures. The Ancient Greeks, the Mayans and Native Americans all chewed different forms of tree sap, and Europeans adopted the practice as well.
You may believe that regularly chewing gum may contribute to tooth decay, but surprisingly enough, it is exactly the opposite. The American Dental Association (ADA) reports that it can help prevent tooth decay and contribute to the remineralization of teeth, among other benefits.
What Is in Gum?
Gum is normally made of a few main components: a base, a sweetener, a softener and a flavoring. The base is composed of synthetic materials. For the sweetening agent, different types of cane sugar or corn syrup are used, but in the sugar-free variety, artificial sweeteners are used.
Substances that help retain moisture and elasticity such as vegetable oils are used as softening agents, and oils and fruit extracts may be used as flavoring. Manufacturers also might add color, and preservatives to retain freshness.
How Does Gum Help Prevent Tooth Decay?
To make chewing gum a healthy, dentist-approved habit, you must first find a product with the ADA’s seal of approval. This verification gives the assurance that it is not flavored with sugar, but with sweeteners that will not contribute to cavity development, such as xylitol or mannitol. Consuming sugar contributes to acid buildup on teeth and will not have long-term beneficial effects.
The ADA seal is also only given to products that have proven their marketing claims are effective. If the packaging states that the product is able to reduce the occurrence of cavities, gingivitis or periodontal disease and carries the ADA seal, you can rest assured you will see a positive difference in use over time.
Chewing ADA-approved sugarless gum for 20 minutes following a meal resulted in less tooth decay in clinical trials. While the gum is being chewed, saliva flow is stimulated. Saliva helps to neutralize leftover acids and wash away food debris stuck in between teeth. Saliva also contains nutrients like calcium, which help to replenish tooth enamel and increase bacterial resistance.
When Should You Avoid Gum?
Don’t depend on chewing gum as a main source of tooth care. Brushing and flossing must still be done on a regular basis — gum only adds to the cleanliness and protection of your teeth.
If you suffer from temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) and have regular jaw pain, do not chew gum without speaking to your dentist first. He or she may advise against putting additional stress on your jaw until you recover.
Trust Oak Hills Dentistry for reliable, factual information about chewing gum and its effects on oral health. Make an appointment with our skilled care team for instruction on daily tooth care practices that are even more effective at preventing tooth decay than chewing gum.