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Science Says: Chew Gum

Woman with a sore tooth

You may have grown up accustomed to hearing that gum is like candy – it’s bad for your teeth, contains too much sugar, and can be harmful to your body when over-consumed. In reality, modern research shows that gum can actually improve your oral health and help keep your teeth clean and strong. Sugar-free chewing gum brands have earned the American Dental Association “Seal of Acceptance” for their scientifically proven ability to protect teeth.

What Does Gum Do to My Mouth?

According to the ADA, chewing anything – food, gum, the end of your pencil – increases saliva production in your mouth. When you’re chewing food, extra saliva helps break down the nutrient components, making food easier to digest and allowing your body to absorb the good stuff. When you chew gum, your mouth produces more saliva as though you were eating food, which can help break down leftover food particles and can provide a few health and aesthetic benefits:

  • Helps wipe away tooth stains
  • Breaks down acids that can wear away at your enamel, preventing tooth decay
  • Strengthens teeth: added saliva carries phosphate and calcium, which fortifies enamel
  • Helps break down and wash away bacteria that causes bad breath

To reap the benefits of chewing gum, it’s best used right after eating or drinking, especially if you’ve just consumed food with a staining agent like coffee or tea. Although it’s recommended that you brush your teeth after each meal, if you’re not able to get to your toothbrush, chewing gum instead will provide many of the same benefits (provided that you do brush your teeth at least twice a day). When combined with a regular brushing and flossing regimen, chewing gum has been proven to improve your oral hygiene and the overall health of your teeth.

The Limitations of Chewing Gum

You’re likely thinking, “great, I’ll just chew gum instead of brushing my teeth!” But neglecting to brush or floss your teeth, no matter how much gum you chew, will have extremely negative effects on your oral health. Chewing gum is described by the ADA as an “adjunct” to brushing your teeth, not a substitute.

Which Gum is Right for Me?

The ADA has only approved sugar-free gums, which contain artificial sweeteners that won’t damage your teeth. The best bet for your oral health is to choose a sugar-free gum containing the ADA Seal somewhere on the package, which signifies that the gum has been scientifically proven to meet ADA standards for safety and efficacy.

Once you’ve found an ADA-approved gum, the rest is up to you! Sugar-free gums come in a variety of flavors and are available at grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retail shops. If you’re having trouble choosing the right gum, chat with your dentist about what he or she thinks would best benefit you.

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