Recent statistics have shown that about 59% of Americans report that they chew gum. Chewing gum that contains sugar can increase the chances of developing a cavity while chewing sugar-free gum can actually help prevent them.
Studies have demonstrated that chewing sugar-free gum following snacks or meals can help to neutralize and rinse off the acids released by harmful bacteria in dental plaque. While teeth are composed of around 95% minerals, these acids actually do damage to teeth by leaching the minerals from them.
Streptococcus mutans are specific bacteria that produce the acids that cause tooth demineralization. Yet sugar-free gum that has been sweetened with xylitol has been found to inhibit the growth of these specific cavity-causing oral bacteria. Xylitol causes these specific bacteria to be unable to adhere to the tooth surface. Over time, the kinds of bacteria found in the mouth change, with fewer bacteria that cause decay surviving.
In addition, both the flavor of gum along with the act of chewing causes saliva flow to be stimulated. In fact, ten times the normal rate of saliva is produced. This increased saliva flow helps to wash away food particles left between teeth after meals and snacks.
Therefore, chewing sugar-free gum, especially when sweetened with xylitol, is a practical solution for many people when flossing and brushing may not be immediately available. Although of course, chewing sugar-free gum is not a replacement for regular dental hygiene practices.
However, chewing sugar-free gum is not for everyone. Chewing gum is not recommended for anyone experiencing jaw pain or temporomandibular disorder symptoms (TMJ/TMD). It can put stress on the cartilage in the jaw joints and can trigger pain. In addition, excessive chewing can cause tightness in the facial muscles near the temples, putting pressure on nerves that supply blood and can lead to intermittent, chronic headaches.
Moreover, chewing gum may be problematic for those who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), who may experience flare-ups as excess air is swallowed during chewing. Cramping and bloating can occur due to increased pressure on the intestine.
Yet, for most chewing sugar-free gum in moderation can be part of a healthy practice that can help reduce the risks for cavities.
If would like more information about the benefits and risks of chewing sugar-free gum, Dr. Heidi Finkelstein and her caring staff at My Plantation Dentist can help. To schedule your appointment, please contact us today at 954-584-1030.