Chewing gum can be traced back to ancient Egyptians and is still popular today. In modern times, we have a great advantage that our ancestors didn’t enjoy: Today’s selection of sugarless gums can actually help our smiles!
Gum sweetened with sugar or corn syrup can contribute to plaque buildup, lead to erosion of your teeth’s enamel and increase your cavity risk. The more often you chew gum with sugar and the longer you chew each time, the more damage it can do.
The surprising benefits of sugarless gum
Sugar-free gum is sweetened with ingredients that don’t cause cavities. These include sugar alcohols like xylitol and sorbitol or artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and stevia. A natural sweetener, xylitol has been proven to be an effective weapon in fighting oral diseases. Research shows it may reduce bacteria in the mouth and help prevent tooth decay.
You may want to steer clear of fruit-flavored sugar-free gums, as they may contain acidic flavoring and preservatives that can damage your teeth.
Chewing any sugar-free gum can greatly increase your flow of saliva, which may prevent tooth decay. That’s because the stronger flow of saliva removes sugars and neutralizes acids on your teeth. Increased saliva flow also reduces your risk of cavities because it contains calcium and phosphate that strengthen your teeth. In addition, increased saliva flow can temporarily improve effects of cavity-causing dry mouth, including bad breath.
If you chew sugar-free gum, it’s best to chew for 20 minutes after meals and snacks when the increased flow of saliva is most needed to help clean your mouth. Chewing sugar-free gum may also reduce stress, likely because of changes in brain chemicals as you chew. Stress is a factor in several oral health issues, including teeth grinding and clenching, mouth sores and gum disease.
People with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) should avoid chewing gum as it may increase jaw pain.
While chewing sugar-free gum can help you maintain a healthy smile, don’t use it as a substitute for a good oral health care routine. Continue to brush twice a day for two minutes each time, floss daily and visit your dentist regularly.