Everyone loves to chew gum. In fact, kids in North America spend close to half a billion dollars on chewing gum each year. But what are the effects of chewing gum on your oral health? Is it helpful, or harmful? Actually, it can be both. The effects depend on what kind of gum you chew.
Gum that contains large amounts of sugar is overall more harmful to your teeth than beneficial. Chewing sugary gum excessively may be harmful, as the sugar can stick to your teeth, attracting plaque. However, removing the sugary gum from your mouth too soon may increase likelihood of cavities as well. If you’re going to chew sugary gum, you should chew it for at least 15-20 minutes, according to World Dental. At this point, the sugar in the gum is gone, and the remaining sugar on your teeth can be washed away due to the increased saliva production from the gum.
Sugarless gum, on the other hand, actually benefits oral health in many ways, no matter how long you chew it. For example:
- Freshens breath
- Prevents dry mouth
- Neutralizes acids formed from bacteria in the mouth
- Reduces plaque
- Reduces gingivitis for healthy gums
This is mostly due to the fact that chewing gum increases saliva production. Saliva is one of the most important components of oral health. Not only does it neutralize the acids in your mouth that over time can wear away tooth enamel and cause erosion, but saliva contains calcium that can actually help strengthen enamel. The sticky surface of gum also helps reduce plaque without leaving residue of its own. This consequently helps with the prevention of cavities, gingivitis, and other resulting dental problems such as toothaches.
Not a Substitute
Though chewing gum can have many benefits to your oral health, it’s by no means a replacement to regular daily hygiene. Chewing gum in place of brushing and flossing would not be beneficial. Brushing twice and flossing once daily is recommended to effectively remove plaque; however, it’s clinically proven that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after meals can further help prevent decay.
Chewing gum can be very beneficial to your mouth. The ADA even released a seal of approval, which has been given to some gum brands to show that that brand of gum is effective in improving oral health. Look for the ADA Seal next time you buy a pack of gum to ensure that it is a healthy choice.