Here’s a problem some patients have – they have a sweet tooth, but they know eating candies all day long can’t be good for their teeth. For these patients, chewing gum can be a great alternative, satisfying their craving for sweets while improving their oral health.
That brings up a lot of questions: why is chewing gum good for your teeth? Are there kinds of chewing gum you should avoid? We’re going to answer both of these questions, and a few others in this piece:
How does chewing gum improve your oral health?
Chewing gum can help you improve your oral health on two fronts: it can reduce your cravings for sugary foods, and it can lower your chances of getting cavities by increasing salivary flow.
Food cravings can differ pretty dramatically between individuals, and exactly what can be done to stop a particular craving (if, indeed, that craving is causing problems) varies from person to person. While chewing gum won’t eliminate cravings for sugary snacks in every individual, it does work for some. For these people, chewing gum improves their oral health by reducing or eliminating the number of foods harmful to oral health that they consume.
The increase in salivary flow is just a fancy way of saying you’ll produce more saliva. Saliva has a number of oral health advantages – the biggest is that it literally helps wash away foodstuff that gets stuck in your mouth. With that foodstuff washed away, bacteria have less to eat, so you’ll be less likely to develop gum disease, cavities, or other bacteria-related oral health problems.
All gums are not made equal
While all gum can help you deal with cravings and increase salivary flow, there are some gums that are much more effective than others.
The first rule of gum is to avoid all chewing gums that are sweetened with real sugar. These products might reduce your craving for sweets, but that’s only because they are sweets. They’re bad for your teeth! Don’t chew them.
Instead, opt for sugar-free gums. There are a lot of artificial sweeteners on the market, but if you want a particularly sweet treat for your teeth, you might try looking around for gum sweetened with xylitol. While more research is needed, preliminary investigations hint that xylitol may reduce plaque and bacteria, thus improving oral health.
Another thing to watch for is gums with acid for flavouring – things like citric acid are common culprits. These gums can lower the pH of your mouth, effectively making it more acidic. That can hurt your teeth’s enamel and make it more likely that cavities will develop.
Right now, there are no chewing gums that meet the CDA’s requirements for a Seal of Approval – that said, by avoiding acidic and sugar-sweetened gums, you may well be able to use chewing gum as a tool to improve your oral health. Keep in mind that gum is not a replacement for an oral health care routine that includes brushing twice per day and flossing once a day.
Any questions about chewing gum, oral hygiene, or anything else related to your oral health? Our dentists in Winnipeg are here to help – give us a call!