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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