Is it true that chewing gum can actually reduce your risk of developing cavities? Yes! Because chewing gum causes your mouth to produce more saliva, which helps neutralize and rinse away some of the acid that forms in your mouth when you break down food, it can actually help prevent tooth decay. The type of gum you choose, however, matters greatly. Sugary bubble gum, for instance, can actually have the opposite effect and contribute to the buildup of plaque on teeth. At La Mesa Hills Dentistry, we encourage our clients to chew sugarless gum when gum is desired, and we remind our clients that chewing gum is never a substitute for your regular daily oral care routine. Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing is the most important way to take care of your oral health! daily. But if you’re interested in how chewing sugar-free gum can have a positive effect on your oral health, here is some information to “chew” on:
When it comes to chewing gum, the type of gum you choose to chew makes a significant difference. When you chew gum with a high sugar content, you can actually increase your chances of developing a cavity. Yet, while gum containing sugar can be harmful to your teeth, clinical evidence shows that sugarless gum can have a significant positive impact on your oral health. Studies have shown that chewing a sugarless gum can actually help you to protect your teeth and increase overall oral health. Chewing sugar-free gum after a meal or snack triggers your mouth to produce additional saliva, which acts to rinse off the surface of your teeth. The increased saliva also neutralizes some of the acids in the mouth, such as the acids that form in the mouth as food breaks down and the acids released by the bacteria in plaque, reducing the damage to your tooth’s enamel. Additionally, the minerals generated by the extra saliva actually help strengthen your tooth’s enamel, reducing your overall risk of forming cavities.
Chewing sugar-free gum that is sweetened with xylitol can further increase the benefits associated with chewing gum. In addition to the act of chewing stimulating the saliva flow, the flavor of the artificial sweetener in the gum also increases saliva production – by about ten times the normal rate! This increased saliva flow not only neutralizes the acids in your mouth, it also washes away food particles, helping to keep your teeth clean. Further, sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol actually inhibits the growth of Streptococcus mutans, one of the oral bacteria that causes cavities. Sugar-free gum containing xylitol has been shown to inhibit bacterial growth because when xylitol is present in the mouth, oral bacteria lose the ability to adhere to the tooth, stunting the process which causes cavities. When you use xylitol over an extended period of time, the types of bacteria in the mouth actually change, and fewer decay-causing bacteria are able to survive on the surfaces of your teeth.
For most people, chewing sugar-free gum is a simple way to increase beneficial saliva production and keep the mouth healthy. There are, however, some instances in which chewing gum is not recommended. If you are experiencing any type of jaw pain or have symptoms of temporomandibular disorder (TMD/TMJ), you should avoid using chewing gum. If you have any questions, the team at La Mesa Hills Dentistry is here to help, and we can discuss what options are available to you.
Sugar-free or not, chewing gum is not a substitute for a good oral care routine of twice-daily tooth brushing and daily proper flossing with quality dental care products. At La Mesa Hills Dentistry, in La Mesa, California, we encourage all of our patients to maintain good oral care routines, and if you are going to use chewing gum, choose a sugar-free variety. If you are uncertain about which gum is best for promoting oral health, look for ones recommended by the American Dental Association with the ADA seal of approval on their packaging. Chewing sugar-free gum may be another way to care for your teeth, but we encourage you to come see us for routine dental cleanings and check-ups. At La Mesa Hills Dentistry, we are here to be your partners in your oral health. Give us a call at (619) 469-2902, or contact us here, today!