Chewing Gum – The Good and The Bad

Oral_HealthIt used to be common wisdom that chewing gum was bad for your oral health. It was just another type of candy, or so the reasoning went.

However, times have changed. Now, the American Dental Association (ADA) actually recommends the use of certain types of chewing gum, even giving them the organization’s coveted Seal of Acceptance. Confused yet? The key to understanding how gum impacts your oral health is to consider what type of gum you are chewing.

The Benefits of Chewing Gum

All gum does one important thing for your mouth – it increases saliva flow, which washes away debris from your teeth after a meal and protects your teeth and gums. Certain brands of sugarless gum are endorsed by the ADA; research indicates that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after a meal can help prevent tooth decay. Additionally, sugar-free gum that contains xylitol can actually reduce bacterial plaque in the mouth.

All Chewing Gum is Not Created Equal!

As positive as all this may sound, it should be reiterated that these recommendations ONLY apply to sugarless gum. No gum containing sugar has earned the ADA’s Seal of Acceptance. As with other forms of candy, the concentrated burst of sugar that they provide contributes to tooth decay. Also, there is some evidence that even sugarless gum brands containing certain types of citrus fruit flavoring may harbor enough acid to damage tooth enamel.

Finally, even sugarless gum chewing is not recommended if you have temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems with your jaw; vigorously exercising an already sore and possibly damaged joint with non-essential chewing is a bad idea.

“If you enjoy chewing gum, you can make choices about it that will improve your oral health,” says Dr. Carol Ford, a central Phoenix cosmetic dentist. “Choose sugarless brands that contain xylitol, and enjoy them in moderation.”

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