Most Americans chew a lot of gum.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the average U.S. citizen chews 1.8 pounds of it each year. Many people aren’t sure whether that’s good or bad. However, as long as the gum you’re chewing is sugar-free, and you’re not using it as an excuse to skip brushing and flossing, it can benefit your oral health.
One of the most important pieces of the puzzle that is oral health, is your spit (and we’ve mentioned that before)! After you eat, your saliva gets to work rinsing leftover food particles from your teeth and neutralizing the acids that can deteriorate your teeth. One way to amp up saliva production is to chew sugar-free gum.
Chew to Increase Saliva Flow
Chewing a piece of sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after a meal can decrease decay. This works by increasing saliva flow and rinsing food particles and bacteria off of your teeth. Your saliva also delivers nutrients to your teeth, which strengthens them against acid attacks.
Since saliva naturally neutralizes acids and helps push them down into your stomach, increasing your saliva production can cut down on your risk of heartburn.
Sugar-Free is Important
It’s very important that you select a gum that does not contain sugar. Chewing gum that has sugar in it will end up hurting you more than it helps you. When you chew sugary gum, you’re giving the bacteria that live in your mouth what they need to develop and eat away at your teeth.
Despite what the name would imply, sugar-free gum does not taste bitter. It actually is sweetened, but with a sugar that your saliva cannot break down. Since it doesn’t start to digest in your mouth, the sugar in the gum does not cause decay.
Chewing Gum Safety
Sugar-free gum can be a great part of an oral health plan, but it does come with a few risks.
- Xylitol is a common ingredient used to sweeten some sugar-free gums. It’s important to keep it away from your pets. While it is safe for humans, it is very toxic to dogs.
- It isn’t true that gum takes 7 years to digest. However, there have been a handful of cases when swallowing a large amount of gum in a short spurt of time has caused intestinal blockage. Don’t freak out if you accidentally swallow a piece of gum. It takes way more than that to cause a blockage. However, this is one of the reasons why it’s important to supervise children while they chew gum until they understand that it isn’t to be swallowed.
- Chewing gum can loosen wires in braces, causing them to bend and loosen, and it can also get stuck in your braces.
You Still Need to Brush and Floss!
Remember, there is no substitute for brushing and flossing every day! Even though chewing sugar-free gum can be a great part of your dental hygiene, you need to take care of the other cornerstones of your dental health. That means brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and visiting the dentist twice a year.