You’re on the road for work or otherwise “away from the office”
and around lunchtime you grab a bite to eat. You don’t have a toothbrush
on hand so after lunch you: rinse your mouth out, floss, and grab a piece
of sugar-free chewing gum. You’re thinking, “I’m doing
the best I can without a toothbrush.” Is this mindset true, can
sugar-free chewing gum reduce your chance of developing
tooth decay if you don’t brush your teeth?
According to the
American Dental Association (ADA), “Chewing gum in various forms has been around since ancient
times.” The Greeks chewed “mastiche,” a sap from the
mastic tree, while the ancient Mayans chewed “tsiclte,” a
sap from the sapodilla tree. Then, Native Americans favored sap from the
spruce tree, according to the ADA.
“Although consumers may be used to thinking about chewing gum as
a kind of candy, this category of the ADA Seal recognizes chewing gum
that has demonstrated scientifically that it can protect teeth,”
said the ADA.
How Chewing Gum Works
When people chew sugarless gum, it increases the flow of saliva in the
mouth. When you have a meal, and chew sugarless gum afterwards, the increased
saliva production helps by neutralizing and washing away the acids in
your mouth. You see, when you eat food, the bacteria in the plaque in
your teeth breaks down the food, but it creates acids in the process.
Over time, acid can wear away at tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay.
Not only does increased saliva production neutralize the acids in the mouth,
the saliva has more calcium and phosphate, both of which strengthen tooth
enamel. “Clinical studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum
for 20 minutes following meals can help prevent tooth decay,” said the ADA.
Note: Sugarless chewing gum does NOT replace brushing and flossing and it is
not a substitute, but it can definitely help prevent tooth decay if brushing
is not an option; for example, after lunch or when you forget your tooth
brush. The ADA recommends brushing your teeth twice a day with a toothpaste
containing fluoride and flossing once a day.
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