Can Chewing Gum Prevent Cavities?

It sounds almost too good to be true: gum chewing, one of the activities that often gets branded as promoting tooth decay in children and adults, can actually aid cavity prevention if one is chewing a sugar-free brand of gum. Like most shocking statements, this one contains some caveats. The right type of chewing gum can provide oral health benefits if you’re trying to keep your teeth healthy, but it’s important to understand the limitations of this activity.

Chewing Gum For Cavity Prevention: Factors To Keep In Mindcavity-prevention

  • The gum you choose MUST be free of sugar. Read labels carefully. Research demonstrates that sugar-free gum can neutralize the acids released by the bacteria in dental plaque. Gum containing sugar offers no benefit to your smile, and can actually contribute to tooth decay.
  • Look for gums containing xylitol. Sugar-free gums with xylitol offer the added benefit of inhibiting the growth of Streptococcus mutans, a bacteria key to the development of cavities. Bacteria exposed to xylitol lose the ability to adhere to the tooth, slowing down the process of tooth decay. (If you have pets, make sure your gum is not accidently consumed by them, as it can be extremely toxic to dogs.)
  • Avoid sugarless gums with citrus flavoring. The cavity prevention benefit of gums without sugar is offset if acidic flavoring compounds are present. Citrus or other acidic flavoring agents increase mouth acidity, which can erode dental enamel.
  • Find other cavity prevention habits if you suffer from TMJ. While sugar-free gum can be a good strategy for some adults, if you struggle with temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, you may want to look elsewhere for cavity prevention The repetitive chewing can easily aggravate the condition.

“Talk to your dental provider about using sugar-free gum as a strategy for cavity prevention,” says Dr. Melanie Bauer, a dentist in practice at Dr. Carol Ford & Associates in central Phoenix. “They can advise you whether it is the right course of action to strengthen your smile.”

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