Is chewing gum helpful or harmful for your teeth? That depends on whether it has sugar or is sugar-free. Gum that contains sugar may increase your chances of developing a cavity. But there is clinical evidence that sugar-free gum can decrease the development of a cavity.
Chewing Gum with Sugar
Sucrose is commonly used to sweeten gum. It is a fermentable carbohydrate that can promote oral bacterial growth. It is not recommended because it can cause enamel demineralization and cavities in teeth.
Chewing Gum without Sugar
Chewing gum must contain less than 0.5 g of sugars per serving to be labeled as “sugar-free”. Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin, and stevia can replace the sucrose. Sugar alcohols such as mannitol, sorbitol or xylitol can also sweeten gum. Xylitol has the added benefit of inhibiting the growth of the bacteria that cause cavities. It inhibits the bacteria’s ability to adhere to the tooth, retarding the cavity causing process. When xylitol is used regularly, fewer cavity causing bacteria can survive on tooth surfaces.
How Sugar-Free Gum Reduces Cavities
Chewing sugar-free gum after meals and snacks can help remove and neutralize the acids released by the bacteria in plaque, which are harmful to tooth enamel. The act of chewing stimulates saliva flow which provides protection against dental erosion in several ways. Increased saliva flow neutralizes the acids in your mouth and washes away food particles, helping to keep your teeth clean.
To Chew or Not Chew
If you have any type of jaw pain or temporomandibular disorder symptoms (TMD/TMJ), chewing gum can aggravate the joint problem. Dental work like crowns, bridges, and fillings might be loosened, or even broken by sticky gum.
It is beneficial for most people to chew sugar-free gum (especially gum that uses xylitol sweetener) as a preventive measure in situations when brushing teeth and flossing aren’t possible.
Chewing gum should never replace good dental hygiene practices. Call New Town Dentistry today to schedule an appointment.