Do you know that chewing gum has been around for thousands of years? Did you know that ancient Egyptians chewed a type of gum that they got from tree resin? Each one of us loves chewing gum. But do you know that sugar-free gum offers several benefits to your oral health? There are few benefits of chewing gum – that might surprise you.
Initially, gums were made from the sap of trees, like spruce or Manilkara chicle. However, many of the modern chewing gums are made from synthetic rubber. In this article, we explore the health benefits and the potential risks of chewing gum.
Is Chewing Gum Helpful or Harmful?
You all must have enjoyed chewing gum at some point in time. But have you ever thought that the useless sugary enable could have some benefit?
When you talk about gums, it’s the type of gum you chew that makes all the difference. The type of gum actually decides whether it’s helpful or harmful to your teeth and gums.
Generally, chewing gum containing high levels of sugar might actually increase your chances of developing a tooth cavity. Clinical evidence has demonstrated just the opposite. Meaning sugar-free gums are helpful for your teeth. And there are even more benefits of chewing sugar-free gum that is sweetened with xylitol.
What Is Chewing Gum?
Chewing gum is a rubbery, soft substance that is designed to be chewed and chewed but not swallowed. Their recipes can vary between brands, but basically, all chewing gums constitute the following ingredients:
Gum: This is a non-digestible, rubbery base used to give the chewing gum its chewy quality.
Resin: It is added to strengthen gum and hold it together.
Fillers: Fillers like calcium carbonate or talc give the gum its texture.
Preservatives: These increase the shelf life of the gum. The most popular option is an organic compound known as butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT).
Softeners: They help to retain moisture and prevent it from hardening. They also include waxes like vegetable oils or paraffin.
Sweeteners: These include beet sugar, cane sugar, and corn syrup. Sugar-free gums use sugar alcohols like xylitol or artificial sweeteners like aspartame.
Flavorings: The most important ingredients are natural or synthetic. This is a secret recipe for most chewing gum manufacturers. It is a unique combination of gum, filler, resin, softeners and antioxidants together called gum base.
Is Chewing Gum Good for Your Teeth?
So the next question that might come to your mind is whether gums are good for your teeth? The answer is yes if it is the right kind of gum.
Gums can help prevent tooth decay as long as you are choosing a sugarless gum. By chewing these gums, your mouth tends to produce more saliva. Which in turn helps to neutralize and rinse away some of the acids that might have formed in the mouth. This acid is the result of food that has broken down in your mouth. So, if you chew gum after a meal, you might help to protect your teeth and thus promote oral health.
Moreover, the minerals generated by the extra saliva can be helpful in strengthening your tooth enamel. Thereby reducing your risk of developing a dental cavity.
Is Sugar Free Gum Good for Your Teeth?
Parents should surely share this oral care hint with children and teens, who often chew gum. Jfust ensure your children choose sugarless gum, not sugary bubble gum, which can have an adverse effect. Sugary bubble gums can have the opposite effect and contribute to the buildup of bacteria and plaque on the teeth.
The American Dental Association recommends having sugarless gum. In fact, some types of sugarless gum have been approved by American Dental Association, and they have their seal of approval on their packaging. So, if you are not sure which to pick for promoting oral health – look for that seal when you purchase the gum packet for your family members.
But remember that gum chewing is not a substitute for a regular oral care routine. You need to brush twice daily and floss once a day using quality dental care products.
Sugar-free Chewing Gum Helps to Clean Your Teeth
Studies have shown that chewing sugar-free gum after snacks and meals can help rinse off and neutralize the acids released by the bacteria present in plaque. These are very harmful to your tooth enamel.
It is the act of chewing and the flavor of the artificial sweeteners in the gum, which help to stimulate the saliva flow. By the chewing process your saliva flow is increased ten times, which helps to cleanse your mouth. The increased saliva flow helps to neutralize the acids in your mouth. Which in turn washes away food particles, helping to keep your teeth clean.
Benefits of Chewing Gum
1 Combating Bad Breath
Having bad breath is very embarrassing, but it can happen to anyone. As you have figured out that eating strong-smelling foods like onions, garlic and a few spices can lead to a foul odour in your mouth. However, bad breath might be a symptom of more serious oral health conditions. It could be the sign of gum disease or dry mouth. By taking flavored gums, you can mask bad breath quickly.
2 Preventing Tooth Decay
According to one of the experiments in the Journal of Oral Science -participants who chewed sugar-free sweetener xylitol gums had less oral bacteria in their mouth. Soon after chewing the sugar-free gum, there was a lesser number of bacteria present in their mouth.
The American Dental Association (ADA) has published that people can reduce their tooth decay risk by chewing sugar-free gum right after a meal.
Proper oral hygiene helps prevent gingivitis, plaque, tartar, cavities, and bad breath in the long run. However, chewing sugar-free gum after a meal can help eliminate bad breath and tooth cavity.
3 Increasing Saliva Flow
Another significant benefit of gum chewing is that it can relieve the discomfort of dry mouth. Do you know that saliva does a lot of good for your mouth? By chewing more and more, you generate more saliva. These gums frequently helps promote saliva flow.
If you have a dry mouth, you might experience discomfort eating or swallowing. During the chewing process, your jaw muscles push on your salivary glands. This helps to release more and more saliva. So, by having gum regularly, you can directly help relieve the symptoms of dry mouth.
4 Whitening Teeth
You may be asking – how can a gum whiten teeth? Many of your habits could lead to discoloration of your teeth surface. These include drinking coffee, wine and smoking. Many products are available in the market to help remove these surface stains, including at-home whitening kits and toothpaste.
You can also find several whitening chewing gums in the stores. These products are specifically chewed after meals. They help to wash away food particles that could cause stains by stimulating salivary flow. Teeth whitening treatments might increase your teeth sensitivity. Hence to prevent such scenarios, gums might be useful.
5 Stress Relief
Researchers have proven that if you chew gum, often it can help to relieve the stress of your daily life. According to a Journal of Clinical and Translational Research study, participants who chewed gum regularly for an extended period were reported feeling less stressed. Compared to participants who did not chew gum. Hence gums can be a good stress reliever.
6 Other Health Benefits
Apart from the above-mentioned benefits, gum has been linked to other benefits as well. These include:
Prevents ear infections in children: Studies have suggested that gum containing xylitol is beneficial in preventing middle ear infections, especially in children.
Helps you quit smoking: Nicotine gum, as you might be knowing, could help you quit smoking.
Helps in gut recovery after surgery: Studies have proved that by chewing gum after surgery or operation your speed of recovery time will be less.
Xylitol Reduces Decay Causing Bacteria
Sugar-free gum available in the market sweetened with xylitol is good for your oral health. The substance xylitol inhibits the growth of Streptococcus mutans, one of the primary oral bacteria that cause tooth cavities.
In the presence of xylitol, the harmful bacteria lose their ability to adhere to the tooth surface. This retards the cavity-causing process. If xylitol is used over a period of time, the types of bacteria in the mouth change and fewer decay-causing bacteria survive on your tooth surfaces.
To Chew or Not to Chew
As discussed above, chewing sugar-free gum is beneficial in most instances. But there are some cases in which the gum is not recommended. For example, if you are experiencing jaw pain or temporomandibular disorder symptoms (TMD/TMJ), you should refrain from chewing gums. It is important to talk to your dentist about the options available.
For most people, chewing sugar-free gum (especially gum sweetened with xylitol) can be a good preventive measure. Especially In situations when tooth brushing and flossing aren’t helpful. But remember chewing gum should never replace good dental hygiene practices.
There are many options for chewing gum like sugary, sweet candy. But instead of indulging in a pack of gum that may damage your teeth, be sure to read the package before buying. Always select a sugar-free option with the ingredients that might help you fight plaque and tooth decay. Your teeth will surely thank you.