What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of chewing gum?
Probably that it freshens the breath. That in itself is one of its benefits for your oral health.
However, you may not link oral health with chewing a gum, after all, it is full of sugars.
Chewing a piece of sugary gum frequently will in fact cause you cavities, though sugar-free gums can benefit your oral health in several ways.
Want to know more about it? This article discusses these benefits for your oral hygiene and health. Keep reading to know more.
Sugary and Sugar-free Chewing Gum
Gum is popularly sold in two forms, sugar-free and with sugar.
Sugary gums have sucrose which oral bacteria feed on and can release acids that result in demineralizing the enamel.
This eventually forms cavities. However, it is not certain that all sugar-containing gums will lead to tooth decay.
It depends on the following factors:
- the number of times you chew it
- your oral retention time
- the time of chewing it for instance taking it before eating food will lead to more cavities than afterward
- the consistency and flavors in the gum
Sugar-free gum replaces sugars with sweeteners and sugar alcohols such as Stevia, Xylitol, Aspartame and Saccharine.
Hence, they contain only about 0.5 grams of sugar. That means the bacteria do not metabolize them and this does not result in demineralization.
The key ingredients in gum include these sweeteners either be sugar such as sugar cane or corn syrup and artificial sweeteners in the sugar-free option.
Besides sweeteners, they also need flavors such as cinnamon, mint etc.
The chewiness is from gum, fillers and resin. It is the rubbery base that the resin holds together and fillers such as calcium carbonate give it strength and texture.
Next, its texture maintains and it preserves through the use of softeners and preservatives.
Vegetable oils help to maintain the soft texture and moisture of the gum as well as preservatives like butylated hydroxytoluene keeps it longer on the shelves.
These ingredients are generally safe. However, BHT has shown signs of cancer in animals. Though, its use is very minor in gums.
Similarly, a high amount of titanium dioxide also links to organ damage in animals. However, gums use a small safer amount.
The artificial sweetener aspartame is also infamous for headaches and obesity. However, with little evidence. Also, most sugar-free gums now preferably use xylitol.
Hence, chewing a piece of gum is generally safe for your overall health and also has some oral health benefits. More on that below!
Chewing Gum Stimulates Saliva
When you start chewing a piece of gum, the saliva flow inside your mouth increases by 10 to 12 times than the usual rate.
Though sweetened gum and flavorings help to increase it more than in unsweetened gums.
This stimulation of saliva has several benefits for oral health such as:
Dental Erosion Protection
Your enamel and teeth are under attack of acids through eating and drinking citrus fruits, acidic sodas and sugary foods.
These foods can demineralize the enamel and thin it over time hence, making it more susceptible to plaque and bacteria.
However, by chewing a piece of gum, the saliva flow rate increases and it reduces the acidic effect of the food and drinks you consume.
Stimulated saliva by chewing has a greater effect as it contains a higher concentration of calcium, bicarbonate, and chloride.
It also transmits a high amount of proteins to the dental surfaces where it forms an enamel pellicle to save the enamel from eroding.
Therefore, if the saliva loses any mineral because of the acids, the gum helps to replenish them by stimulating the saliva.
Hence, within an hour it recovers the minerals that the enamel loses. But if you choose to chew gum for at least 20 minutes after eating food then the minerals will replenish quickly.
Decreasing Fermentable Carbohydrates
Bacteria and plaque feed on the fermentable carbohydrates in your food.
However, if your saliva production increases then it clears them before bacteria use them to erode the enamel.
Hence, they are unable to metabolize these carbs and accumulate to form cavities. The saliva eliminates most stuck food particles though, chewing a piece of gum cannot replace brushing teeth and dental flossing.
That said, eating a gum after 20 minutes of eating is certainly effective against decay because of the stimulation of saliva by the action of chewing which compresses muscles of the salivary glands.
There are also other benefits of chewing a piece of gum. Read on the below!
Chewing Gum Benefits
Helps Against GERD
The increase in the saliva by the action of chewing helps to also clear the acid that builds up in the saliva.
Hence, if you frequently experience GERD or acid reflux then chewing a piece of gum after meals can help decrease the symptoms.
Fights Bad Breath
Most people take chew gums because of bad breath.
The sugar-free gums with xylitol are even better than completely sugarless gums as xylitol prevents the bacteria’s growth responsible for cavities and bad breath.
So a gum does not only mask the bad odor coming from your breath but also decreases the bacteria causing it because of the increase in saliva production.
As the saliva increase washes food debris, sugars and eliminates bacteria up to 75 percent then there is no way for your breath to smell bad.
So when someone passes you the gum, take it!
Effective for Dry Mouth
If you face the condition Xerostomia, then your mouth probably stays dry most of the time.
The reason behind a dry mouth can either be your medical conditions or the medicines you take for them.
Either way, your salivary glands secrete less saliva than they should, resulting in a parched mouth.
The lack of saliva also builds up bacteria which causes bad breath.
As chewing a piece of gum helps to increase saliva flow inside the mouth, it helps to moisten the mouth.
However, it is not a permanent solution but can temporarily benefit you and reduce the dryness.
Your teeth form yellow and brown stains because of the foods and drinks you consume.
Besides dental whitening procedures such as teeth whitening zoom and laser whitening, you also have whitening systems such as whitening strips and toothpaste.
Though, there are also certain whitening chewing gums. While their effect may be mild, they can help to wash away food debris by increasing saliva production.
This way the bacteria and plaque do not accumulate on the teeth and erode the enamel.
Moreover, it helps to coat the teeth preventing stains on the enamel.
Therefore, even if mild, it does have an effect on keeping your teeth without stains.
Chewing flavored gum can prevent you from craving desserts and sugary foods.
The mild sweetness and low-calorie intake content can complement your sweet tooth without needing to eat something high in sugar.
Moreover, the action of chewing decreases appetite. As you chew a piece of gum after eating a meal, it can decrease your willingness to snack and your hunger.
Keeps You Alert and Boosts Memory
Chewing gum can be effective in boosting your memory and keeping you alert in stressful conditions.
The chewing action helps to increase the blood flow to the brain.
Hence, your task performance becomes better and understanding as well as decision making improves alongside memory and alertness.
Though the effects may not last long, they can still help reduce the stress hormone cortisol. Hence, you feel more alert and relaxed in stressful situations.
Assists in Quitting Smoking
If you have been smoking for long then it is definitely hard to go cold turkey and quit it immediately.
You need some backups or coping mechanisms to help you not fall back into the addiction.
One way to prevent relapse is to go for nicotine gums to deal with withdrawals.
This can help you quit smoking while the addiction persists.
Other benefits include speedy recovery after a gut surgery or operation.
Chewing a piece of gum containing sugar alcohol like xylitol also helps to reduce the chances of middle ear infection.
- Does chewing gum replace brushing and flossing?
Chewing a piece of gum cannot replace brushing and flossing.
It has several oral benefits and can complement both brushing and flossing but it cannot remove bacteria and plaque as efficiently as brushing and flossing.
It will decrease the chances of cavities and bacteria attacking the enamel but brushing and flossing help to remove stuck food particles and stubborn plaque.
- Should I choose sugar-free gum or sugar-containing gum?
The sugar-containing gum and flavored gums especially with acids such as citrus acid can decrease the pH of plaque below 5.5 which can cause enamel dissolution and demineralization.
Hence, it is better to go for a sugar-free gum containing artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols like Xylitol.
- How often should I chew gum?
You can chew sugar-free gum on the go. But it is better to do so after eating and drinking.
Remember to take it after your meal and not before it. Also, keep chewing for 20 minutes to stimulate saliva that will decrease the acid in the mouth after eating.