Gum Chewing and Your Oral Health
If you’re like most people, you have fond childhood memories of chewing gum. Remember when Double Bubble was a few cents per piece? It was always a treat you could look forward to if your parents were nice enough to buy it for you at the grocery store. Chewing gum isn’t a new practice. In fact, people have been chewing gum for hundreds of years. There is even evidence that people chewed gum as far back as 9,000 years. However, not all chewing gum is created equal, and that delicious Double Bubble was definitely not good for your oral health.
The good news is that some gum chewing has actually been linked to improved oral health. Some chewing gum has even earned the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance.
The Chewing Gum Industry
Before we explain aspects of chewing gum and your oral health, here is a brief overview of the huge chewing gum industry.
According to a report published by the National Library of Medicine, chewing gum manufacturers produce about 560,000 tons of chewing gum every single year.
Chewing gum with sugar typically uses sucrose, one of the leading food sources that cause bacteria to increase tooth decay. Conversely, most sugar-free gum contains xylitol, a sweetener that actually prevents the same bacteria from spreading throughout your teeth and gums.
Why is this information relevant? These figures matter because the point is that chewing gum manufacturers are not invested in your oral health. Chewing gum producers are in the business of making money. Therefore, it’s up to you as the consumer to read labels carefully and buy chewing gum products that support your oral health.
Functional Chewing Gum
When a chewing gum product has a function in addition to that found in traditional chewing gum, this gum is called functional chewing gum. Here are a few examples of functional chewing gum.
- Nicotine gum
- Chewing gum containing aspirin
- Caffeine chewing gum
How Chewing Gum Improves Your Oral Health
Below, we have detailed how chewing the right type of gum can improve and help your oral health.
Increases Flow of Saliva
When you chew sugar-free chewing gum, the amount of saliva your mouth produces is increased. When you have increased salivary flow following a meal, the result is decreased acidity and a cleaner mouth.
Saliva contains some important minerals, including phosphate and calcium. The body uses these minerals to repair dental erosion in the teeth and strengthens tooth enamel.
Some people don’t produce enough saliva, and they suffer from dry mouth, which can lead to an increased risk of tooth decay. Chewing gum can greatly help with this problem.
May Strengthen Tooth Enamel
Certain types of chewing gum have a substance known as casein phosphopeptide-amorphous calcium phosphate or Recaldent (CPP-ACP). This substance can slow down tooth decay by remineralizing teeth. However, if you are allergic to dairy products such as milk, you shouldn’t use products containing CPP-ACP.
Decreases Tooth Sensitivity
If you have sensitive teeth that hurt when you eat or drink sweet, cold, or hot foods, chewing sugar-free gum can help decrease this painful sensitivity.
Risks Involved with Chewing Gum
While chewing gum has some oral benefits, a couple of risks come from chewing gum.
Decreases pH Levels in the Mouth
Citric acids and other acids added to some types of chewing gum do more than flavor the gum. These acids actually decrease the overall pH in your mouth. What this means is that your saliva can actually become more acidic, which leads to an increased tooth decay risk and dental erosion.
If you chew gum, it’s recommended that you limit gum chewing to about 30 minutes at a time. Chewing gum for longer than this may increase your risk of jaw problems.
How to Find ADA Approved Chewing Gum
In the United States, the chewing gum market is divided into two product types:
- Chewing gum with sugar
- Sugar-free chewing gum
The only chewing gum that earns the ADA Seal of Acceptance is sugar-free chewing gum.
To find chewing gum with the ADA Seal of Acceptance, examine the product’s packaging. If a chewing gum product is beneficial to your oral health, it will have this seal clearly indicated on the package.
Dr. Tiffany Shields in Jacksonville, Florida, has solutions for you. The Smiles by Shields Dentistry team offers several options for transforming your smile. Please contact us to schedule an appointment.