The average American chews 1.8 pounds of chewing gum every year. Believe it or not, this may be a good thing for dental health.
It’s true that flossing every day and brushing twice daily is essential to maintaining a healthy smile. However, the truth is saliva is actually the number one component for keeping your teeth clean. Your saliva works to neutralize acids and rinse decay-causing bacteria from your mouth.
To find out more about saliva and the crucial role it plays in your oral health, check out our earlier blog post.
Chewing Increases Saliva Flow
If you chew sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after you eat a meal, research shows that this may increase saliva production, reducing decay. In addition to rinsing away bacteria that collects in your mouth, saliva works to deliver nutrients to your teeth.
An increase in saliva production will also help to neutralize acids and help them to travel out of your mouth and down your throat. This can help to prevent heartburn.
Gum Must be Sugar Free
Make sure your gum is sugar-free! Chewing sugary gum does more harm than good. Sugar feeds the bacteria that can cause tooth decay, so chewing sugary gum will help the bacteria to thrive and do more damage to your teeth.
Even though the gum is sugar free, it actually is sweetened, so you don’t need to worry about a bitter taste. Sugar-free gum is sweetened with ingredients like xylitol, sorbitol, aspartame, or mannitol. Your saliva isn’t able to digest these sugars, so they don’t contribute to tooth decay.
Does Chewing Gum Replace Brushing and Flossing?
Brushing twice a day and flossing daily is indispensable. So nice try, but you aren’t off the hook.
Brushing and flossing physically scrapes plaque from your teeth in a way that the rinsing from increased saliva flow can’t.
Be Careful with Gum
While sugar-free gum has positive effects on dental health, it isn’t without negatives.
Some things you should know when you use gum are:
- If you wear braces, tread carefully. Gum can get caught in your braces and put stress on your wires, causing them to loosen.
- If you accidentally swallow a small amount of chewing gum, don’t panic. Small amounts are safe and your digestive system can handle it. However, in rare cases, large amounts can cause intestinal blockage. This is why it’s important to supervise your children until they understand the important of spitting out chewing gum when they’re done.
- Xylitol is safe for human use, but it can be lethal for dogs. Be sure to keep sugar-free gum out of your pet’s reach.
If you have any questions or concerns about chewing gum, contact your dentist. They will be able to recommend a type of gum that will suit you.