One of our favorite days of the year is right around the corner – National Chewing Gum Day! Yes, this Houston dental practice will join in celebrating National Chewing Gum Day on September 30th. As you will discover, dentists don’t hate chewing gum as much as you’ve been led to believe. In fact, dentists are pretty big fans of chewing gum.
Now, before you rush out to stock up on chewing gum, it is important to know Houston dentists (and dentists across the US) only recommend sugarless chewing gum. We’ll explain why.
Chewing Sugar-Free Gum Prevents Tooth Decay
According to the American Dental Association, “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.” Basically, chewing sugarless gum creates saliva and helps you fight off acid attacks.
It Reduces Bad Breath
One of the main reasons people pop a stick of gum in their mouth is to help get rid of bad breath. This is true, even with sugarless chewing gum. Chewing gum helps prevent the growth of bacteria which causes bad breath. Plus, many chewing gums are designed with strong flavors that can hide or reduce bad breath.
It Eases Dry Mouth
As the Oral Health Foundation explains, “Dry mouth and bad breath are often caused by a reduced saliva flow. When you chew sugar-free gum your mouth makes more saliva and the symptoms of dry mouth and bad breath may be reduced.”
It Reduces Stress
We recently discussed the damaging effects of stress on your teeth, so our dental practice in Houston is always looking for ways to help ease our patients’ stress. According to Healthline, “Studies have also found that chewing gum could reduce stress and increase feelings of alertness. In university students, chewing gum for two weeks decreased feelings of stress, particularly in relation to academic workload. This could be due to the act of chewing, which has been linked to reduced levels of stress hormones like cortisol.”
It Boosts Memory
Additionally, chewing gum has also been shown to have positive effects on one’s ability to retain information. For example, Healthline reports, “In one study, people who chewed gum during tests performed 24% better in short-term memory tests and 36% better in long-term memory tests.”
It Helps You Lose Weight
Many people swear that chewing gum is a great weight loss trick. Is there any truth to it? Can you chew gum to ease cravings? Some people believe the act of chewing gum tricks your body into shrinking your appetite. While that is up for debate, there have been studies that seem to suggest there is a correlation between chewing gum and losing weight. Healthline claims, “One small study found that chewing gum after lunch decreased hunger and reduced snacking later in the day by around 10%.” And, there have been studies that show people burn more calories when they chew gum.
But Some Gum is Bad for Your Teeth
As a reminder, when we speak of the positive effects of chewing gum, we are only discussing sugar-free chewing gum. Sugary gums and bubble gums do just the opposite. Instead of preventing tooth decay, chewing gum with sugar causes plaque to build up, and tooth decay.
And Your Tummy
Unfortunately, some of the recommended sugar-free chewing gums can cause digestive distress – especially if it is used frequently.
Too Much Chewing Can Cause Other Issues
In addition, even if you choose to chew sugar-free gum, you may face other issues. For example, chewing gum has been connected with temporomandibular disorder (TMD), which causes extreme jaw pain. Simply put, your gum chewing may overwork your jaw muscles.
Also, chewing gum frequently has been linked to headaches and migraines, so much so that migraine sufferers are encouraged to stop chewing gum. Since TMD and migraines are often connected, it is possible for chewing gum to be a cause.
When is Chewing Gum a Good Idea?
So, now that you know the pros and cons of chewing gum, it is important to know when you should unwrap a stick and start chewing. The Oral Health Foundation suggests, “Chewing sugar-free gum helps protect your teeth and gums in between meals when it may not be possible to brush with a toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.” Basically, you should chew some sugar-free gum after meals before plaque starts to form. Additionally, they recommend chewing gum for up to twenty minutes to really stimulate saliva production.
It is also important to chew the right type of gum. Again, this means you should only chew sugarless gum. But there is more to it. You should only chew gum that carries the American Dental Association seal of approval on their packaging.
You should also pay careful attention to the ingredients – specifically look for chewing gum with Xylitol. Colgate explains, “Xylitol is a naturally occurring sweetener that some studies have shown can reduce the amount of cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth. Since Xylitol, unlike sugar, is unsuitable as fuel for these organisms, the number of bacteria decreases, leaving your mouth a safer place for your teeth.”
When is Chewing Gum a Bad Idea?
As much as we would love to say chewing gum is safe for everyone, that is not true. Those with dentures or braces should avoid chewing gum because it causes a number of problems.
Lastly, don’t mistake the benefits of sugarless chewing gum as an excuse to skip your daily brushing and flossing. Chewing gum is not a substitute for good oral hygiene. Instead, think of chewing gum as a preventative tool you can use between brushings while you are out and about.
Don’t Rely on Sugar-Free Gum to Protect Your Teeth. Schedule an Appointment with Greenspoint Dental in Houston Today.