Chewing gum has long been deemed a healthy alternative to bad oral habits, such as smoking or nail biting. The act of chewing gum has been found to help oral health by boosting salivary flow and stimulating the oral taste receptors, resulting in better-tasting foods and drinks. Chewing sugar-free chewing gum has also been proven to help fight against tooth decay by neutralizing the pH levels of plaque after consuming sugar.
While chewing gum can be advantageous to your oral health, there are some possible downsides to regular gum use.
Potential Oral Health Impact of Chewing Gum
While the occasional stick of gum likely won’t cause any harm, regular gum chewing has the potential to harm your oral health. Some of the biggest potential effects on oral health caused by chewing gum include:
Many people who chew gum overlook the ingredient list. Some types of gum on the market contain large amounts of sugar or artificial sweeteners which can be harmful to teeth. Sugars found in some chewing gums can interact with bacteria in the mouth, causing a sticky film to develop on the teeth, known as plaque. Plaque then uses sugar as a form of energy and produces acids that gradually dissolve tooth enamel.
The area where the jawbone attaches to the skull is called the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). When the muscles that control this joint become unbalanced or fatigued, a TMJ disorder can develop that causes discomfort or stiffness in the joint. Chewing gum can increase a person’s risk of developing a TMJ disorder, especially if you engage in aggressive or lopsided chewing (chewing on one side of the mouth).
Chewing gum regularly can also result in other health problems, such as chronic headaches. Headaches can develop when the jaw muscles become fatigued. This problem is more common in individuals who may chew gum as a form of stress release. When stress becomes too much, they may chew faster and harder which can put greater fatigue on the jaw muscles, which in turn can contribute to headaches.
There are also other ways that chewing gum can be bad for your oral health. Chewing gum frequently can cause wear and tear on tooth enamel over time. Worn enamel can then lead to other oral health concerns, such as increased tooth sensitivity to hot or cold stimulates. In addition, regular chewing could possibly affect your bite alignment. This is specifically a concern when the upper molars gradually spread apart and the bottom molars start to drift backward, resulting in an overbite.
How to Safely Chew Gum for Good Oral Health
If you do enjoy chewing gum on occasion, be sure to choose the right kind. Look for a sugarless gum variety that has the ADA seal of approval on the package. The ADA seal signals that the product is both safe and effective for oral health.
Xylitol is the ingredient that you want to look for when purchasing sugar-free gum. Xylitol is a type of natural sweetener that is sugar-free but delivers a taste that is similar to sugar but with fewer calories. Unlike real sugar and certain artificial sweeteners, it has been deemed effective at preventing cavities by reducing the number of decay-causing bacteria in plaque.
Also, consider flavor when choosing chewing gum. Certain flavors of sugar-free gum, such as peppermint or spearmint, can help your breath smell fresher in both the short-term and long-term. Chewing sugar-free gum can also aid in fresher breath by increasing saliva flow which helps to neutralize pH levels in the mouth and wash away food debris.
Contact Dr. Tiffany Shields, Jacksonville Florida
Many people enjoy chewing gum to help maintain a cleaner mouth and fresher breath.
It can be especially beneficial after a meal to help minimize plaque formation and stimulate saliva flow. At Smiles by Shields Dentistry, our accomplished dentist in Jacksonville FL offers holistic dental care services to help support good health and wellness. To learn more about our services or to inquire about becoming a patient, call our office today at (904) 731-0777.