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Chewing sugarless gum can be beneficial to your mouth. Listen as Dr. Maria Lopez Howell explains how sugarless gum helps stimulate saliva, and in turn, helps your mouth fight tooth decay.
The great thing about chewing gum is that it initiates salivary flow. Saliva is filled with fantastic natural protective enzymes and compounds that prevent decay and gum disease by flushing the mouth and dislodging the various bacteria in there. But, most gum is laced with sugar, which, as you know, causes decay.
If you must chew, chew sugarless.
But the next time you pop a piece of chewing gum in your mouth, consider the wear and tear it's putting on your jaw system. While we’re told that chewing gum removes foods from the mouth and the surfaces of the teeth, that positive act is far outweighed by the abuse it’s doing to your jaw. Teeth normally only come together for seven to ten minutes a day under normal functions (when we chew our food). But daily gum chewing puts them together for literally hours each day, and chewing and overuse of the teeth and jaw muscles can eventually lead to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) and myofacial pain dysfunction (MPD). There are two things that cause the destruction of the mouth: plaque and force. Though you might not have considered it before, chewing gum is a forceful action. Whistle instead. Or, better yet, smile.
Research has shown that sugarless gum or candy that contains xylitol can help protect teeth against decay.
Xylitol has been found to slow the growth of the bacteria responsible for tooth decay. It also makes it more difficult for these bacteria to stick to the surfaces of the teeth, which is how the process of tooth decay begins.
Chewing sugarless gum has been shown to increase the flow of saliva, thereby reducing plaque acid and improving the defense against tooth decay. If you chew after eating, the increased salivary flow can help neutralize and wash away the acids that are produced when food is broken down by the bacteria in plaque on your teeth. Over time, acid can break down tooth enamel, creating the conditions for decay. Increased saliva flow also carries with it more calcium and phosphate to help strengthen tooth enamel.
While chewing gum does not replace brushing and flossing, clinical studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following meals can help prevent tooth decay.
Chewing sugarless gum in moderation can be beneficial as it increases salivary flow. Salivary flow helps to neutralize the acidity in the mouth. However, chewing for excessive periods of time can cause damage to your teeth and jaw muscles. Excessive pressure can harm the teeth and surrounding supporting structures.
This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.