Indulging in a stick of gum isn’t bad for your teeth — that is, if you choose the right kind.
Chewing gum dates back to ancient times. At a site in Sweden, archeologists discovered tooth impressions of children and adolescents dating back 9,000 years with bits of birch bark tar, indicating that they chewed gum. The ancient Mayans, Aztecs, and Greeks also chomped on gum-like substances. So, chewing gum is nothing new. But is it good for you?
Chewing gum won’t harm your teeth and it may actually improve your overall oral health — provided you choose the right gum. Sugar-free gum, particularly those that contain a natural sweetener known as Xylitol, is your best choice. If you don’t want to read a long list of ingredients to see if the pack is made with Xylitol, look for the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance before you purchase. With that recommendation, you can enjoy a sweet-tasting treat without harming your teeth.
The Surprising Benefits of Chewing Gum
After decades of being told chewing gum (or eating any sweets) is bad for your teeth, you may be surprised to learn that the sugar-free or unsweetened variety can actually boost your oral health. Sugar promotes the growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth, which leads to plaque and tooth decay. The sugar-free brands, however, have the opposite effect and can help your oral health by:
Preventing Cavities. One study found Xylitol reduces the amount of bacteria in the mouth. Because bacteria is the leading cause of tooth decay, keeping bacteria from reaching the surface of your teeth may prevent cavities.
Strengthening Your Enamel. The mere act of chewing gum stimulates saliva production in your mouth. Your saliva contains calcium and phosphate, both of which strengthen the protective layer of enamel on your teeth. As enamel wears away, your teeth become more susceptible to decay. As such, maintaining your enamel is vital. You can also choose a brand containing a substance known as casein phosphopeptide-amorphous calcium phosphate (CPP-ACP), also known as Recaldent. Studies indicate CPP-ACP can remineralize your enamel and keep it strong and able to resist cavities.
Another benefit of increased saliva production is a reduction of heartburn-causing acids in the mouth. If you suffer from dry mouth, chewing on a piece of sugar-free gum alleviates the painful symptoms of that condition by keeping your mouth moist.
Stopping Bad Breath. We’ve all indulged in spicy, garlic-heavy meals that leave us with stinky breath. But we may not be near a toothbrush. To mask the unpleasant odor, chew on a stick of gum to freshen your breath.
Cleaning Teeth. We know we should brush after every meal, but sometimes that’s not possible. Chewing a piece of gum clears away food bits and bacteria left from your food until you’re able to brush your teeth.
Chewing gum offers benefits beyond improving your oral health, as well. Feeling stressed out? Chew on a piece of sugar-free gum to relax. It may also help you manage your weight. Whenever a hunger pang hits, reach for a stick of sugar-free gum instead of a sugary or salty snack. The same principle applies when you’re trying to quit smoking.
Although indulging in a stick of sugar-free gum won’t harm your teeth, it’s not a substitute for regular and consistent dental care. Regular brushing, daily flossing, and visiting your dentist twice a year for a checkup will maintain your oral health. Chewing gum is only one part of a good oral health program.
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Norman, OK 73069