Chewing gum. Good? Bad? Both? Read more
A quick survey of any store’s candy shelves will tell you that there are a lot of chewing gum options out there. And not all chewing gums are created equal. But can chewing gum be good for you? If so, what kind of gum might be the healthiest to chew? Different experts see it different ways. In this article, we’ll cover some of the pros and cons of chewing gum as it connects to your dental health.
There are some cases where chewing gum can lead to problems. A few tips:
But chewing gum has its good points, too.
For one thing, chewing makes our mouths produce more saliva. Saliva is our “natural mouthwash” that helps keep our teeth clean. It not only “rinses” food particles out of our mouths, but also reduces acids that can be hard on tooth enamel. In times or places where you can’t brush or floss your teeth, a piece of chewing gum might be better than nothing.4
Another area where dental experts agree: sugar-free gum is the best choice by far. But some sugar-free gums are better than others. It all depends on what’s in them.
Some studies show that sugar-free gum with a sweetener called Xylitol can actually help fight tooth decay. Xylitol has been shown to slow the growth of bacteria called Streptococcus mutans. This bacterium is a cause of cavities, and Xylitol keeps it from sticking to tooth enamel. Over time, it seems Xylitol can even help discourage Streptococcus mutans and other mouth bacteria from forming in the first place.5
There’s also some new research into a sugarless gum ingredient called calcium lactate. When it’s used in chewing gum that also has Xylitol, it seems that calcium lactate can boost “helpful” minerals in tooth enamel.8
Other sugar-free gum sweeteners approved by the American Dental Association (ADA) include sorbitol, mannitol, and aspartame.6 But as we mentioned earlier, many experts believe there’s a link between aspartame and cancer.
No matter which kind of gum you choose to chew, it’s important to note that the only kinds of gum that the ADA approves are sugarless.7
As with any other food, it pays to read the label on that pack of gum before you buy it. All experts say the most important thing is that it’s sugar-free. From there, you can look for the kind of sweetener the gum uses. Sugar-free gum with Xylitol and calcium lactate seems to be the best option today.
As you choose your sugar-free chew, please keep one more thing in mind. The ADA, and all dental groups we reviewed, is very clear that brushing and flossing are the number-one things you can do for your mouth’s health. Chewing sugar-free gum may help, but doesn’t come close to daily brushing and flossing.
Want to learn more? Try this fun quiz from the ADA about sugar-free gum and its benefits: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/chewing-gum-quiz
That said, you can go ahead and enjoy that piece of sugar-free gum, guilt-free, especially at times when you can’t brush or floss. Chews – er, cheers – to a happy, healthy smile!
This material is intended for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed medical professional. You should consult with your doctor
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