Did you know that the average American consumes 1.8 pounds of gum each year? Many people chew gum habitually and mindlessly, chewing away for hours each day. It’s important to know how chewing gum affects our dental health. You may have heard that it’s both good and bad for your teeth — so what’s the real answer?
Is chewing gum good for your teeth?
Yes, it is, but not all the time and it depends on what type of gum you choose to chew. Chewing gum can help prevent tooth decay, as long as you select a sugarless gum. Chewing gum causes your mouth to produce more saliva, which helps neutralize and rinse away some of the acid that forms in your mouth when you break down food. So, if you chew gum after a meal, you may be helping to protect your teeth and promote oral health. Also, the minerals generated by the extra saliva can even help strengthen your tooth enamel, which also reduces your risk of dental cavities.
However, chewing gum isn’t all good news. If you make a habit of chewing gum that contains sugar, the bacteria can feed on the sugars and do more damage to your mouth. Chewing too much gum can lead to excess wear and tear of teeth and effect your jaw. Here are the pros and cons to help you decide if gum chewing is for you.
- Increases saliva flow: According to research, chewing sugar-free gum for twenty minutes after you eat a meal can cut down on decay. The more you chew, the more saliva you produce, so as you chew your gum, your mouth gets a good rinse from increased saliva flow. Saliva also provides your teeth with the nutrients they need to stay strong.
- Beneficial to your health: Chewing gum is beneficial for your health, but only if it’s sugarless! Chewing sugary gum will negate the positive effects that come from chewing. Bacteria that live in your teeth need sugar to survive, so if you chew sugary gum, you are accommodating the nasty bacteria that cause decay. Calling gum sugar-free is a little misleading. It isn’t bitter tasting, because it’s sweetened with xylitol, sorbitol, aspartame, or mannitol. Your saliva cannot break down these ingredients, so they do not cause cavities.
- Hardens enamel: Some gum manufacturers are beginning to add a substance called casein phosphopeptide-amorphous calcium phosphate (CPP-ACP) to their products. CPP-ACP, more commonly known by its trademarked name Recaldent, is said to remineralize and harden tooth enamel, making your teeth stronger and less likely to suffer from tooth decay.
- Tooth decay: Sugared gums can with heavy use cause tooth decay, gum disease and cavities. This happens because sugar coats the teeth and can slowly cause damaging of tooth enamel if they are not immediately brushed. To reduce harmful effects of sugared gums, seek out gum brands that use smaller quantities of sugar.
- Jaw stress: Even though many gum manufacturers claim that their products can be used all the time, and on any occasion, detailed studies show that habitual use of chewing gums may cause continuous stress on your jaws. If not regulated, this stress can lead to the condition called Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TJD), which is manifested with strong facial pain and great discomfort in the back of the neck.
- Stomach issues: Continuous chewing of gum can lead to the increased levels of stress to your stomach and intestines. After meals your stomach must receive a period of resting time for it to digest food, but chewing and continuous swallowing of saliva interferes with that rest. Stomach issues that can appear in those situations are irritation, aches, and aggravated gastritis. In some cases, you can even develop a gastric ulcer.
While gum chewing does have its benefits, it’s important that brushing, flossing, and six-month check-ups are essential to your oral health. Making those a regular part of your routine is the best thing you can do for your mouth!
Do you have questions about chewing gum? Call Hartnett Dental to schedule an appointment with your dentist today! (716) 649-6633.