Can Chewing Gum Actually Help Prevent Tooth Decay?

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Americans love chewing gum. In fact, the average American chews more than 1.8 pounds of gum a year. But is all that chewing gum wrecking the oral health of millions of Americans, leaving them to deal with a lifetime of cavities and problems with their teeth?

The answer is yes, if that gum is full of sugar. But if that 1.8 pounds of gum chewed annually is sugarless gum, then it is actually a boost for your oral health. In fact, clinical studies have linked the prevention of tooth decay to chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following a meal.

Why is sugarless gum such a plus for oral health? There are two main reasons. The first is linked to saliva, which your body produces in large quantities when you chew gum. Saliva is the body’s natural way of washing away food debris from your mouth, neutralizing acids that are produced by bacteria in your mouth, and providing disease-fighting substances for your entire mouth. Plus, you’ll get additional calcium and phosphate from the saliva, which helps you naturally strengthen your tooth enamel.

The second reason is that sugarless gums use sweeteners such as sorbitol, aspartame, mannitol or xylitol. Because they aren’t sugar, they don’t cause cavities because bacteria don’t use them as food. And when bacteria don’t have a ready food source in your mouth, their population in your mouth declines. That means your mouth is a safer place for your teeth.

Xylitol is especially helpful to your teeth, because it inhibits the growth of one of the main oral bacteria that causes cavities (Streptococcus mutans). Bacteria in your mouth can’t adhere to teeth if there is xylitol present, which slows down the creation of cavities. Plus, if you use xylitol over a long period of time, it reduces the amount of bacteria that can survive in your mouth and cause cavities.

Recaldent is also added to some sugarless gums, which makes your teeth stronger and reduces tooth decay. The Recaldent hardens the enamel on your teeth, thus making them stronger.

Remember, chewing sugarless gum is not a substitute for flossing daily and brushing twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste. But it can do a good job of helping to supplement your oral health care routine.

SOURCES: American Dental Association and Colgate

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