If you are like most Americans, you chew a lot of gum. The average American consumes roughly two pounds each year. Two pounds of gum seems like a lot, but it turns out that chewing sugar-free gum after meals isn’t such a bad thing.
Brushing, flossing, and 6-month check-ups are all essential to your oral health. But the top tool for keeping decay and gum disease away is actually saliva. It rinses bacteria off of your teeth and neutralizes acids in your mouth.
To learn more about the important role saliva plays in your oral health, check out our blog post about saliva.
Chewing Increases Saliva Flow
According to research, chewing sugar-free gum for twenty minutes after you eat a meal can cut down on decay. The more you chew, the more saliva you produce, so as you chew your gum, your mouth gets a good rinse from increased saliva flow. Saliva also provides your teeth with the nutrients they need to stay strong.
If you experience heartburn after a meal, you may want to give the sticky stuff a try. Saliva neutralizes acids and helps them to travel down your throat.
Gum Must be Sugar Free
Chewing gum is beneficial for your health, but only if it’s sugarless! Chewing sugary gum will negate the positive effects that come from chewing. Bacteria that live in your teeth need sugar to survive, so if you chew sugary gum, you are accommodating the nasty bacteria that cause decay.
Calling gum sugar-free is a little misleading. It isn’t bitter tasting, because it’s sweetened with xylitol, sorbitol, aspartame, or mannitol. Your saliva cannot break down these ingredients, so they do not cause cavities.
Does Chewing Gum Replace Brushing and Flossing?
You still need to brush and floss! No matter how much gum you chew, brushing twice a day and flossing daily is an essential part of your routine.
Brushing and flossing physically removes stuck-on bacteria from your teeth in a way that increased saliva flow cannot.
Be Careful with Gum
Chewing sugar-free gum has a lot of benefits, but there are a few negative points to keep in mind when using gum.
- Small amounts of gum are safe to ingest, so don’t fret if you swallow a piece or two. However, be careful if your children chew gum. In rare cases, large amounts of chewing gum can lead to intestinal blockage, so make sure your child knows not to swallow the gum.
- If you have braces, you will want to stay away from chewing gum. It can get stuck in your braces; plus, chewing the gum can create a force that can push your wires out of alignment.
- Xylitol is safe in humans, but can be fatal in dogs. Keep your gum away from pets.
If you have any questions about chewing gum, consult your dentist. They will be able to recommend a type of gum that is well-suited for your needs.