Believe it or not, chewing gum has been around — in one form or another — since ancient times.
The ancient Greeks enjoyed chewing mastiche, the sap of the mastic tree, and the Mayans enjoyed chewing tsiclte, the sap of the sapodilla tree. Even Native Americans chewed the sap of spruce trees.
Though the ingredients have evolved over the centuries, gum is still a popular confection. It is estimated that the average American chews one and a half pounds of gum per year.
Is all of this gum good for us? Dr. Darian Hampton, a dentist at the Hamptons Family & Cosmetic Dentistry, explores this question in more detail.
The Good News
The physical act of chewing gum increases the flow of saliva in the mouth. A boost in saliva production helps to neutralize and wash away decay-causing acids left in the mouth after a meal. Saliva also has calcium and phosphate, which strengthen tooth enamel.
Certain types of gums contain therapeutic agents with additional health benefits. For example, some gums have ingredients that reduce plaque and minimize the risk of gum disease.
Not All Gums Created Equal
It is important to review the label and ingredients of a pack of gum to determine whether it is good for your teeth.
Gums that are sweetened with sugar (including most bubble gums) can cause cavities. These gums react with the bacteria in plaque to produce acid that may erode tooth enamel. And, unlike candy, which dissolves quickly, gum stays in the mouth, pressed up against the teeth, for an extended period of time. This exposes the teeth to a greater risk.
Choosing Your Gum
Look for gums that are labeled sugarless, and contain non-cavity causing sweeteners like xylitol, sorbitol, aspartame or mannitol.
The American Dental Association offers a list of approved chewing gums for reducing cavities. To earn the ADA seal of approval, a gum product must show “scientific evidence 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” (according to the ADA website).
The Bottom Line
Remember that chewing gum is not a substitute for daily brushing and flossing. Check out Dr. Hampton’s recent blog post for more oral health tips.
If you would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Hampton to discuss your oral health or explore your cosmetic dentistry options, please contact Hamptons Family & Cosmetic Dentistry today. Call (972) 395-9292 and speak to a friendly member of our team.