The debate is as old as time, or at least as old as dental care. People have been chewing gum for centuries, though ancient gums did not resemble our modern day chewing gums. They have since evolved from a simple tree sap or gum to the rubbery substance we know today. Each brand varies in recipe, but all gums have a combination of gums, resins, fillers and softeners and vary drastically with added flavorings and sweeteners. Though the ingredients are entirely food grade materials, is it safe to chew? Since taking care of your teeth is so essential, you want to develop good healthy dental habits. But should chewing gum be one of them?
Effects of Chewing Gum on Your Teeth
There are advantages to chewing gum like reducing stress and boosting memory. Some folks believe it is a weight loss aid or can help you quit smoking. But when it comes to oral health, chewing gum is a mixed bag.
Chewing gum can be both good and bad for your teeth. It depends on the type of gum chewed. Regular sugary gum can actually harm your teeth. The sugar used as a sweetener actually will feed bacteria in your mouth which in turn, can damage your teeth. However, sugar-free gum can not only freshen your breath, it may also improve your oral health.
Sugar Free Gum Benefits
Though any gum may give your fresh breath, sugar free gum may actually help to prevent cavities. The American Dental Association reports that studies show that you can prevent tooth decay by simply chewing sugar free gum for twenty minutes after your meal. The gum activates the saliva in your mouth which in turn, neutralizes acid and strengthens enamel. This same production of saliva also reduces sensitivity in your teeth.
However, not all sugar free gum is created equal. Be mindful that gums sweetened with Xylitol have more decay fighting benefits that gums sweetened with Sorbitol. With Sorbitol, some acidic waste byproducts are still produced and the cavity forming bacterial can still digest Sorbitol, which they cannot do with Xylitol. Even though more gums are sweetened with Sorbitol, primarily because it is cheaper, if you are opting for sugar free gum, choose one sweetened with Xylitol.
You may have already heard of Xylitol, but what is it exactly? Xylitol is classified as a sugar alcohol and is naturally found in minute quantities in some fruits and vegetables. It is made from plant fiber or trees like birch and is considered a “natural” product. It measures approximately the same as granulated sugar but has 40% fewer calories. Because it has a low glycemic index, it does not raise blood sugar or give you spikes like regular sugar does. It actually reduces cavities by “starving” the bad bacteria in your mouth. It inhibits the growth of streptococcus, the major bacteria responsible for plaque buildup and gum disease.
Sugar free gum sweetened with Xylitol is readily available. Xylitol is plant based and a natural by-product found in minute quantities of the human body. Unlike artificial sweeteners in the past, there has been no health risks associated with its consumption. Side effects associated with consumption of Xylitol are minor, but may include minor digestive issues when too much is consumed. Long term consumption appears to have no negative side effects.
Chewing Gum for Oral Health
To chew, or not to chew? That is the question. The answer can be summed up easily. Chewing gum is great if it is sugar free and sweetened with Xylitol. This gum will clean your teeth and prevent decay, improving your overall oral health. So toss those sugary gums and opt for chewing sugar free. Your mouth will thank you.
And to get on the road to great dental health, see your dentist regularly. Contact us today to set up an appointment.