When dental health deteriorates, even chewing gum can break your teeth. People are often skeptical about chewing gum. While some consider it fun and take it as a great face exercise to get an attractive jawline, others might see it as a threat to their oral health. But why is that? All the sugar in the chewing gums and candies is harmful to your oral health. It can lead to many dental problems such as tooth decay. However, where there is a problem, there is a solution too. If you are not ready to give up on your gums, you do not have to! All you have to do is pick up the sugar-free gums when you go shopping next time.
Is Chewing Gum Good for Oral Health?
The answer is yes. If only you are eating the right kind. There are two kinds of chewing gum available. One is the one that you will find sitting on the shelves with other sugary candies and jellies- yes, they are the ones you need to stay away from. The other one is the sugar-free gums that are beneficial to your oral health and even prevent dental problems. And we will tell you why.
The effects of sugary chewing gums on oral health:
The sugars in the chewing gums, which usually are sucrose, sorbitol, and mannitol, are your enemies. Studies have shown that they lower the pH in your saliva, creating an acidic oral environment. These acids lead to forming a sticky layer called plaque that harbors bacteria and other harmful microorganisms. That is where all the dental problems start, especially tooth decay (dental caries).
The effects of sugar-free chewing gums on oral health:
Studies have confirmed that sugar-free chewing gums can prevent dental decay and improve oral health. As per the guidelines set by the Oral Health Foundation, chewing sugar-free gum containing xylitol can aid in “washing and rinsing away” the food debris and bacteria by stimulating saliva production. Sugar-free gums also help maintain the pH of saliva, thereby regulating a neutral oral environment. Some specific sugar-free gums can improve your oral health as they prevent tooth decay, strengthen the outer layer of enamel, and enhance salivary flow.
Why is Xylitol Important in Sugar-Free Chewing Gums?
Xylitol is a natural sweetener incorporated in many types of sugar-free chewing gums. Xylitol can lower the amount of plaque and hence the bacteria that can cause cavities. Xylitol also acts as a pH regulator by neutralizing the acid in the saliva. Therefore, it can help in preventing dental problems. Many studies and researches have shown that xylitol is capable of remineralizing the enamel, strengthening it. This is why xylitol can effectively reduce the incidence of tooth decay.
Sugar-Free Chewing Gum and Other Dental Problems
As discussed, sugar-free, xylitol-containing chewing gums help maintain a healthy oral environment. However, recent studies have shown that sugar-free chewing gums can also combat other dental problems, such as dental erosion, TMJ problems, dry mouth, and bad breath (halitosis.)
Dental erosion is when the acids deteriorate dental health. The bacteria can produce the acids in plaques from health problems (intrinsic) and food sources like carbonated drinks (extrinsic.) As the saliva is insufficient to “clear up” the acidic environment, the teeth lose their protective layer, enamel, making the teeth prone to sensitivity, cracks, and tooth decay. Sugar-free chewing gums can effectively increase saliva production. Therefore, they can keep the acid attacks at bay. If the acid attack is mild, the saliva can remineralize the enamel in an hour. Chewing on sugar-free gum for about half an hour after consuming acidic foods or drinks can enhance the salivary flow and rinse off the acid from the oral cavity.
Chewing gums can also help alleviate the pain in the joints at the corner of the mouth (TMJ.) Due to stress and anxiety, people often experience lockjaw that leads to limited mouth opening and pain while eating. Amongst the many treatments and exercises for TMJ problems, dentists usually recommend chewing gum.
Dry mouth and bad breath:
Decreased saliva production also leads to the oral problem of dry mouth and bad breath (halitosis.) As already stated, sugar-free gums help with salivary stimulation. Therefore, sugar-free chewing gums can significantly reduce the symptoms of dry mouth and keep your breath fresh and odorless.
Side Effects of Chewing Gum on Oral Health
Every picture has two sides. Therefore, chewing gum has its cons too. If it is sugar-loaded chewing gum, it can cause dental problems such as tooth decay and dry mouth. Excessively chewing on gum, even sugar-free, can cause TMJ problems. Excessive sorbitol from the gum can cause digestive problems and diarrhea. Excessive chewing of sugar-free gums can also lead to unwanted weight loss. This is why moderation is key. There is no harm in chewing sugar-free gums, only if you do it the right way! It is not recommended to chew on gums for people with braces, dental prostheses, or kids under seven years of age.
The Bottom Line
Some dental problems are irreversible; therefore, avoid them while you can. With chewing sugar-free gums, do not forget to practice your daily oral hygiene regimen and regular visits to the dentist. Remember, dentistry is not expensive, neglect is.