Chewing Gums Effect on Teeth
Clinical studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following meals can help prevent tooth decay.
The chewing of sugarless gum increases the flow of saliva, which washes away food and other debris, neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth and provides disease-fighting substances throughout the mouth. Increased saliva flow also carries with it more calcium and phosphate to help strengthen tooth enamel.
Look for chewing gum with the ADA Seal because you can be sure it's sugarless. All gums with the ADA Seal are sweetened by non-cavity causing sweeteners such as aspartame, xylitol, sorbitol or mannitol. Of course, chewing sugar-containing gum increases saliva flow too, but it also contains sugar which is used by plaque bacteria to produce decay-causing acids. Further research needs to be done to determine the effects of chewing sugar-containing gum on tooth decay.
Don’t let chewing sugarless gum replace brushing and flossing. It’s not a substitute. The ADA still recommends brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and cleaning plaque from between your teeth once a day with dental floss or other interdental cleaners.
Look for chewing gum that carries the ADA Seal. The ADA Seal is your assurance that the sugar-free chewing gum has met the ADA criteria for safety and effectiveness. You can trust that claims made on packaging and labeling for ADA-accepted products are true, because companies must verify all of the information to the ADA. Products with the ADA Seal say what they do and do what they say.
When it comes to chewing gum, it's the type of gum you chew that makes a difference in whether it's helpful or harmful to your teeth. While chewing gum containing sugar may actually increase your chances of developing a cavity, there is clinical evidence that demonstrates just the opposite for sugar-free gum. And there's even better news when it comes to chewing sugar-free gum that is sweetened with xylitol.
Sugar-free gum helps to clean teeth
Studies have shown that chewing sugar-free gum after meals and snacks can help rinse off and neutralize the acids released by the bacteria in plaque, which are harmful to tooth enamel. Both the act of chewing and the flavor of the artificial sweeteners in the gum stimulate ten times the normal rate of saliva flow. Not only does the increased saliva flow neutralize the acids in your mouth, it also washes away food particles, helping to keep your teeth clean.
Xylitol reduces decay-causing bacteria
Sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol has the added benefit of inhibiting the growth of Streptococcus mutans, one of the oral bacteria that cause cavities. In the presence of xylitol, the bacteria lose the ability to adhere to the tooth, stunting the cavity-causing process. With xylitol use over a period of time, the types of bacteria in the mouth change and fewer decay-causing bacteria survive on tooth surfaces.
To chew or not to chew
Although chewing sugar-free gum can be beneficial in most instances, there are some cases in which chewing gum is not recommended. For example, if you are experiencing any type of jaw pain or temporomandibular disorder symptoms (TMD/TMJ), you should refrain from chewing gum and talk to your dentist about what options are available to you.
For most people, chewing sugar-free gum (especially gum sweetened with xylitol) can be a good preventive measure in situations when toothbrushing and flossing aren't practical, but sugar-free or not, chewing gum should never replace good dental hygiene practices.
What is chewing gum?
Chewing gum in various forms has been around since ancient times. The Greeks chewed sap from the mastic tree, called mastiche. On the other side of the world, the ancient Mayans favored the sap of the sapodilla tree (called tsiclte). Native Americans from New England chewed spruce sap—a habit they passed on to European settlers. Today, the base used for most gum products is a blend of synthetic materials (elastomers, resins and waxes in various proportions). However, chewing gum is as popular as ever. Consumers may be used to thinking about chewing gum as a kind of candy, but this category of the ADA Seal recognizes chewing gum that has demonstrated scientifically that it can protect the teeth.
What does chewing gum do?
The physical act of chewing increases the flow of saliva in your mouth. 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. Clinical studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following meals can help prevent tooth decay. In the future, look for chewing gum that delivers a variety of therapeutic agents that could provide additional benefits to those provided by the ability of gum to mechanically stimulate saliva flow. For instance, some gum might contain active agents that could enhance the gum’s ability to remineralize teeth and reduce decay, or enable gum to help reduce plaque and gingivitis.
Does chewing gum replace brushing and flossing?
No, chewing gum is an adjunct to brushing and flossing, but not a substitute for either. The ADA recommends brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and cleaning plaque from between your teeth once a day with dental floss or other interproximal dental cleaners.
What is in chewing gum and how is it made?
Chewing gum typically consists of:
- Gum base
- Artificial sweeteners (such as aspartame, sorbitol or mannitol)
- Softeners (glycerin or other vegetable oil products)
- Flavorings and colorings
The process for making chewing gum has six basic steps:
- Gum base ingredients are melted together
- Other ingredients are added until the warm mix thickens like dough
- Machines called extruders are used to blend, smooth and form the gum
- The gum is shaped (flattened or molded into tablet shapes and coated)
- The gum is cooled for up to 48 hours in a temperature controlled room
- The gum is packaged.
How does chewing gum get the Seal?
A company earns the ADA Seal for its product by showing with scientific evidence (PDF) that the chewing gum is effective for one or more specific indications, such as reducing plaque acids, promoting remineralization of tooth enamel, reducing cavities and/or reducing gingivitis. Studies must also show that the gum is safe to oral tissues. The manufacturer must provide the results of both laboratory studies and clinical studies in humans.
Does the ADA award its Seal to sugar-containing gum?
To date, the only gum with the ADA Seal are sugarless. They are sweetened by non-cavity causing sweeteners such as aspartame, sorbitol or mannitol. Chewing sugarless gum has been shown to increase the flow of saliva, thereby reducing plaque acid, strengthening the teeth and reducing tooth decay. Of course, chewing sugar-containing gum also increases saliva flow, but it also contains sugar which is used by plaque bacteria to produce decay-causing acids. Further research needs to be done to determine the effects of chewing sugar-containing gum on tooth decay.
Why look for chewing gum that displays the ADA Seal?
The Seal is your assurance that the Sugar-free Chewing Gum has met the ADA criteria for safety and effectiveness. You can trust that claims made on packaging and labeling for ADA-Accepted products are true, because companies must verify all of the information to the ADA. Look for the ADA Seal because products with the ADA Seal say what they do and do what they say.
You may have heard that chewing gum is bad for your teeth and that chewing gum is good for your teeth. So what’s the answer?
Chewing gum can be good and bad for your teeth depending on what type of gum you chew.
Gum can basically be classified into three different types based on how it is sweetened:
- Gum that is sweetened the old-fashioned way – with sugar.
- Gum that is sweetened with artificial sweeteners like aspartame.
- Gum that is sweetened with sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and xylitol.
Let’s take a look at all of these types of gum and how they affect your teeth.
Chewing Gum Sweetened with Sugar and Your Teeth
When you chew gum sweetened with sugar, there are basically two phases. In the first phase, which can last for 10 minutes or more, you are releasing sugar from the gum into your mouth. The bacteria in your plaque love to feed on the sugar found in sugary chewing gum and hurt your teeth. The sugar in chewing gum sweetened with sugar can stick around in your mouth for a long time and continue to feed the bacteria that live on your teeth, allowing them to harm your teeth.
After a certain amount of time has passed, you will enter the second phase of chewing sugary gum as you will have swallowed all of the sugar in the chewing gum. Because the act of chewing causes you to make more spit, the chewing gum is usually able to promote re-mineralization of your teeth’s enamel after all of the sugar has left your mouth.
Chewing Gum Sweetened with Artificial Sweeteners
If you chew gum sweetened with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame or Sucralose, you will eliminate the first phase of chewing sugary gum that I mentioned above. You will simply be stimulating the flow of saliva in your mouth. This is a good thing because saliva can protect your teeth in many ways.
The textbook Dental Caries by Ole Fejerskov states, “Sugar-free chewing gum, in addition to being sweetened with non-cariogenic sweeteners, provides a gustatory and mechanical stimulus to salivary flow and therefore may be considered as cariostatic. Chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes following a meal or snack has been shown to accelerate the return to resting oral pH.”
Basically, Ole is saying that when you chew gum that doesn’t have sugar, it stimulates the flow of saliva due to the wonderful taste of the gum and because of the chewing action. If you chew gum after you eat a meal, it will help your mouth return to an optimal pH. If you’re not sure what that means, you can about what happens in your mouth every time you eat or drink.
Chewing Gum Sweetened with Sugar Alcohols
The last main type of chewing gum is the gum that is sweetened with sugar alcohols such as xylitol and sorbitol. Xylitol has been shown to help fight against the bacteria that eat away your teeth.
Chewing gum that contains xylitol is like the holy grail of chewing gum when it comes to your oral health! When you chew gum that contains xylitol, you get all of the benefits of chewing sugar-free gum mentioned above. In addition to those benefits, you get the cavity-fighting power of xylitol.
What more could you ask for in a little piece piece of gum?
If you’re wondering where to find it, xylitol is found in a variety of chewing gums, such as the Trident gum pictured to the right. You can make sure that the gum you chew contains xylitol by checking on the ingredient list on the back of the package.
In summary, here’s the three main types of chewing gums listed from best to worst for your teeth:
- Xylitol-sweetened chewing gum
- Artifically sweetened chewing gum
- Sugar-sweeteneed chewing gum
It’s also important to remember that chewing gum helps release saliva which helps to rinse sugar away from your teeth.
The Effect of Gum Chewing on Teeth
Everyone likes chewing gum. Teeth like it too! But do you know HOW much everyone likes chewing gum? Try this: according to sales reports, 100,000 tons of chewing gum is consumed every single year. That’s a lot of sticks and tablets of gum (and a whole lot of wrappers finding their way into the garbage)! Yet is it good for us to chew gum, and if so, is sugar free gum the way to go? Read on to learn more about gum chewing benefits.
Many dentists support chewing gum after meals. In fact, Wrigley’s Orbit sugar-free gum was recognized by the British Dental Association for promoting good oral health. Chewing gum after meals helps generate saliva which in turn aids in washing away, within mere minutes, the acid that bacteria produces in plaque. In fact, saliva has hydrogen carbonate, which is included in some toothpaste. Bad breath and dental decay results when this acid isn’t washed away, which means chewing gum after meals is particularly important because teeth are most endangered when plaque acid levels rise immediately after meals.
Make sure the gum is sugar-free, though. Sugar is not only the biggest cause of cavities but also helps generate the acid-producing bacteria that crops up in your mouth. Those who chew gum with sugar have to strike a delicate balancing act between not chewing it too much and not spitting it out after a short time. Studies indicate that gum with sugar in it should be chewed for between 15 and 20 minutes. At the end of that period, the sugar is long gone and enough saliva has been created to wash away the residue created by the sugar. But of course, dentists don’t want their patients regularly chewing gum after meals if that gum has sugar in it. So that balance must be struck—or, better yet, adults and teens should just chew sugar-free gum.
Other sugar-free gum chewing benefits: some studies show that the surface of sugar-free gum can help dislodge food particles that are wedged in between teeth while also helping to get rid of sugar that is built up on the teeth. This, in turn, helps slow or prevent plaque from forming, and there are few things more detrimental to oral health than plaque. And sugar-free gum, of course, also helps further freshen one’s breath, especially mint-flavored gum. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to impress someone on a first date or merely trying to get through a long afternoon in a shared cubicle at work—good, fresh-smelling breath is always one of the best gum chewing benefits!
Brush your teeth after chewing gum. Consider chewing gum after meals a treat in exchange for brushing your teeth after meals. But wait—you can’t do BOTH at the same time, can you? Of course not! However, many dentists approve of chewing gum after meals and then brushing your teeth. This allows for a double cleaning of the teeth and should further help in improving the health of your teeth.