Chewing gum is a great solution to that bad taste you have in your mouth after lunch or to freshen your breath in preparation for a meeting with your boss. And for many of us, chewing gum may be just as much of a habit more than it is a necessity. Just like any habit, you have probably been chastised more than once – by your mother or your grandma – about how chewing gum is bad for you, and more specifically, how it is bad for your teeth. But is that true?
Most of the traditional gum sold on the market today – think Excel, Extra, or Dentyne – are sugarless gums. This means, they do not contain any refined sugars or typical sugar like you would use in baking, and instead, are sweetened with other, artificial sweeteners. In most cases, this is aspartame, sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol. While there is much debate over the health implications of aspartame, the latter three are sugar alcohols, which you may have seen sold as a sugar substitute in your local grocery store. The exception to this sugarless gum is bubble gums, such as Hubba Bubba, and these bubble gums contain sugar, not sugar alternatives.
When it comes to oral health, the issue with things such as gum and other food we eat, is that they may contain cavity-causing agents. This is typically sugar, which can get stuck in your teeth and then initiate dental erosion and cause your teeth to break down, or even lead to a hole in your teeth. This hole is what is known as a cavity. With sugarless gums however, this issue is eliminated, and there is minimal to no risk of cavities from chewing sugarless gum. In fact, in many cases, the American Dental Association offers their seal of approval on certain sugarless gums, indicating their approval for use.
While cavities are one issue when it comes to food and gum, there are several other components that need to be considered in ensuring optimal dental health. Things such as working to reduce build up of plaque and gingivitis, fighting bad breath, and ensuring adequate production of saliva and healthy mouth bacteria. Chewing gum increases saliva production. Saliva is the mouth’s natural acid defendant and without adequate saliva, acid
in the mouth can cause dental erosion. In addition, bad breath is often caused by low saliva flow. Collectively, since chewing gum increases saliva production, it acts to correct and prevent all of these issues. Good oral health starts with regular brushing and flossing and yearly visits to the dentist. While chewing gum is not a substitute to regular, adequate tooth brushing practices, with the right selection of gum, combined with other proper dental habits, chewing gum can be a safe and healthy component of maintaining good mouth and oral health.