Could Some Chewing Gums Actually Prevent Cavities?
For years it has long been believed and drilled (no pun intended) into our heads that gum chewing was bad for our teeth. Gum had been blamed for causing cavities, tooth decay and a myriad of other dental issues. Gum chewing can be, in fact, quite detrimental to dental care. Recent studies, however, have shed new light unto the effects of gum chewing. While it is true that gum usage can cause dental issues, not all types of gum are harmful. In fact, studies have shown that some types of gum can actually work to prevent cavities and tooth decay. What type of gum is that? Sugar-free.
It is no secret that gum with added sugar can be one of the worse things for your teeth. The sugar contained in the gum dramatically increases your chances of developing cavities. This is not the case of sugar-free gum however, which actually helps in preventing tooth decay and cavities. If you are someone who balks at the idea of sugar-free gum, there is good news. Xylitol is a plant-based sweetener added to sugar-free gum that has not only makes the gum taste better, but it has many added benefits as well.
Chew Away Tooth Decay
Sugar-free gum is sweetened with xylitol, and will effectively prevent the growth of Streptococcus mutant, a bacterium responsible for causing cavities. Xylitol prevents the bacteria from clinging to the tooth, thus preventing the development of cavities. Chewing frequently reduces the bacteria present in the mouth, thus resulting in fewer harmful bacteria resulting in damaging the tooth surface. It is also responsible for repairing teeth through a process called remineralization. When this occurs, specific cells in the center of the tooth produce dentin, the part of tooth beneath the enamel. The enamel can then remineralize from the outer layer. Remineralization is a vital part of maintaining proper dental hygiene.
Additionally, chewing sugarless helps produce saliva, which helps in washing away and cleaning out food particles and bacteria. The saliva which occurs due to gum chewing will help in neutralizing the acids and act as a barrier against cavities and tooth decay. Saliva also keeps plaque, a known cause of tooth decay, from sticking to the teeth. Although the inclination may be to brush your teeth after a meal, doing so is not recommended, as acids in food will break down the protective enamel. Instead, experts recommend chewing gum for about after each meal.
Chewing sugarless gum is also effective in removing food particles embedded in teeth, which can cause plaque buildup. Keeping plaque away is a sure-fire way to keep your teeth from protected against tooth decay. Chewing gum can also help in reducing tooth sensitivity, a common issue affecting many Americans. Studies have shown that those who chew sugarless gum post teeth whitening procedures had significantly less tooth sensitivity than those had not.
Chewing sugarless gums also useful in other ways as well. For example, it aids in digestion, which can help keep acid reflux under control. Studies have also shown that chewing sugarless gum actually can save you a great deal of money. A healthy mouth keeps the dentist at bay, which is good news for your checkbook. Additionally, chewing sugarless gum can help boost memory function. Many studies, in fact, have noted that chewing sugar free gum with xylitol is a just as effective as using fluoride- toothpaste and mouthwash. Now that something to smile about!
Not All Gums Are Created Equal
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the only approved gums that can help prevent tooth decay are those which are sugar-free. You will also want to be sure they have the ADA approved seal on the packaging. Not all sugar-free gums approved by the ADA. For example, there is gum which is also sugar-free, but contains a different sugar substitute, known as sorbitol. Sorbitol does not have the same protective effect that xylitol has. What is a good way to see if your sugar-free gum has xylitol? By reading the label, of course. If listed as a first ingredient, then chew away! Additionally, to reap the benefits of this sweetener, most experts recommended chewing a minimum two or three pieces after each meal.
It should also be noted that in no way should gum chewing be a used a replacement for tooth brushing, which is a necessity for excellent hygiene. Chewing gum after meals or in tandem with brushing and flossing is what many experts recommend. The best time to chew gum? Studies from the ADA concluded twenty minutes after every meal is sufficient.
Before You Grab That Gum
There are a few things to consider before you begin running to the nearest drugstore and stocking up on your favorite sugar-free gum. For example, the constant chewing motion can cause strain and tiredness in your jaw muscles. No different than other muscles, when they are overused it can cause soreness. Additionally, chewing gum for an extended length of time has been known to cause headaches as well as neck pain. There is no concrete evidence that gum chewing is a culprit of TMJ disorders, however, it is understood that it will not ease the discomfort of TMJ symptoms.
Although the stickiness of sugar-free gum can prove to be useful, such as its ability to remove food particles and bacteria present in teeth, it also has its disadvantages. If you have dental hardware such as crowns or fillings, chewing gum may loosen them and cause them to even fall out. Although highly unlikely, it is still important to take into consideration.
Additionally, recommendations vary on how old one should be when choosing sugar-free gum. The consensus is that children should not chew gum until they have learned not to swallow it. There are positives and negatives to children chewing gum as well. On the one hand, we have seen how effective gum chewing can be in helpful in maintaining healthy hygiene. Preventive measures are usually the most effective, so there is a strong argument for starting patients young.
The earlier children practice proper tooth care, the fewer problems in the future there will be. However, it is important that the sugarless gum has the ADA seal, as chewing gum with added sugar is especially detrimental to children’s teeth. Chewing gum with xylitol is most effective when it is chewed right before a child’s adult teeth come in, which is roughly between the ages of 5 and 6.
Knowing how effective chewing sugarless gum can be cause for celebration. However, nothing can take the place of consistent brushing and flossing.