In regards to chewing gum, it really does depend on the type of gum that you have as whether or not it can be beneficial for your teeth. Like foods, chewing gum that contains any sugar will increase your chances of dental erosion and getting a cavity. There is some evidence to suggest that the opposite is true for artificially sweetened or sugar free gum.
Dental erosion is caused by food and drink that we consume and some foods or drinks can cause the enamel on your teeth to deteriorate quicker than others, such as citrus fruit and soda. These foods and drinks can start eating into the enamel and removing the minerals that make it up. Chewing sugar free gum for up to 20 mins after each time you eat or drink helps replace the minerals faster. Studies have proven that chewing sugar free gum after eating can help to produce saliva which aids in rinsing off and neutralizing the acids that are released by bacteria causing plaque, which as we know, can be harmful to your teeth and increase the chance of dental erosion or cavities. Studies have also proven that is not only the act of chewing, but also the flavour of artificial sweeteners in sugar free gum that stimulates a higher than normal rate of saliva flow helping to wash away food particles, helping to keep your teeth clean in between brushings.
Sugar free gum with xylitol has an added benefit. It inhibits the growth of Streptococcus mutans which is one of the oral bacterias that cause cavities. When xylitol is present the bacteria loses it’s ability to stick to the tooth and thus slowing down the cavity causing process. When you have xylitol sugar free gum over a period of time, it actually changes the types of bacteria in the mouth and causes fewer harmful bacteria to be able to survive on the tooth’s surface.
Chewing gum activates salivary glands and generally increases saliva flow. Therefore, chewing gum can also have the added benefit of helping to reduce the symptoms of dry mouth and bad breath, as they are often caused by reduced saliva flow.
While all of this information is great news and chewing sugar free gum seems like a great idea, there are some instances where it would not be appropriate. If you are experiencing any kind of pain in the jaw or other TMD (temporomandibular disorder) symptoms, you should not be chewing gum and should have a chat to your dentist about what treatment options are available for you. If you’re in the San Diego area, be sure to schedule a visit with us at Lifetime Smiles.
However, for most people, chewing sugar free gum can be a great way to prevent bacteria and cavities when brushing or flossing isn’t practical. The release of saliva can help to rinse away sugar residue from your teeth as well. It’s important to remember though, that chewing sugar free gum should never replace a good dental hygiene routine.