If you’re anything like most Americans, you chew a great deal of gum. In 2016, the average american consumed 1.8 pounds of it. While you may consider this to be merely an annoying habit, there are surprising benefits to chewing gum, as long as you go about it the proper way.
While we’re not saying you should ditch your toothbrush and six month cleanings, these aren’t the most important factors for keeping decay from wreaking havoc on your mouth. in fact, saliva is the number one factor that controls bacteria in your mouth. Saliva works to rinse your mouth and neutralize acids. A lack of saliva can lead to serious oral health complications.
To learn more about how saliva is an important component of your oral health, check out our past post.
Chewing Increases Saliva Flow
Recent research finds that chewing gum for about 20 minutes after a meal reduces tooth decay by increasing saliva flow. Saliva helps to rinse bacteria and food particles off of your teeth and helps to transport nutrients that maintain your enamel.
A third benefit of increased saliva flow is that it can neutralize acids and encourage them to travel down your throat. This can reduce heartburn, so if you experience indigestion, give chewing gum a try.
Gum Must be Sugar Free
Be choosy when it comes time to buy gum. Make sure you select one that is sugar-free.
Chewing a gum that contains sugar defeats the purpose of chewing gum to benefit your oral health the bacteria that cause tooth decay love sugar, so when you feed them by chewing sugary gum, you are only helping those bacteria to thrive.
Sugar-free is a misleading term, because most of the sugar-free gums are sweetened. However, instead of using sugar, they are sweetened with xylitol, aspartame, mannitol, or sorbitol. Your saliva isn’t able to process these sweeteners, so they do not cause cavities.
Does Chewing Gum Replace Brushing and Flossing?
Chewing sugar-free gum is a good thing, but it doesn’t get you off the hook!
You still need to brush twice a day and floss daily to remove the plaque that is stuck on your teeth and under your gum-line.
While chewing gum has many benefits, it does come with a few downfalls. When chewing gum, be sure to keep in mind that:
- Xylitol is lethal for dogs, even though it’s safe for human use. If you have gum that is sweetened with this additive, be sure to keep it our of reach of your pets.
- While it doesn’t actually take 7 years to digest, swallowing large amounts of gum can be harmful to your health. If you swallow one or two pieces accidentally, don’t panic–your digestive system can handle that. In very rare cases, however, large amounts of gum can lead to intestinal blockage. Be sure to supervise children as they chew gum until they understand the importance of not swallowing it.
- If you have braces, it’s a good idea to avoid gum. It can get stuck to your brackets and bend your wires.
Ask you dentist for more information about the benefits of chewing sugar-free gum. They might even be able to recommend a brand of sugar-free gum that is well-suited for you.