Americans are major gum chewers! According to the U.S. Census Bureau, we each chew and an average of 1.8 pounds of gum every year.
This may be alarming to some because it isn’t crystal clear whether chewing gum is good or bad for your oral health. But if you’re one of the many gum chewers, rejoice! As long as the gum you choose is sugar-free, chewing it for 20 minutes after a meal can help increase saliva production, which cuts down on plaque.
Benefits of Increased Saliva Flow
Chewing increases saliva production. The more vigorously you chew, the more saliva you produce. The saliva also works to nourish your teeth, and forms a protective layer to protect your enamel against erosion brought on by acids in your mouth.
Saliva neutralizes those acids and directs them down into your stomach, which helps prevent heartburn.
Make Sure it’s Sugar-Free!
Be careful selecting your gum, because chewing gum that contains sugar can have adverse effects. Sugar gives the bacteria in your mouth what they need to thrive. So if you chew gum with sugar in it, you’re feeding those bacteria and allowing them to grow and eat away at your pearly whites.
Plus, believe it or not, but sugar-free gum still tastes sweet! It is actually sweetened with a type of sugar that your saliva cannot digest. This makes it impossible for the sweeteners in the gum to cause decay.
Chewing Gum Safety
Sugar-free gum is great! But, it does come with some risks.
- Xylitol is a sweetener commonly used in sugar-free gum. This ingredient is harmful to dogs, so make sure you store it somewhere where your pup cannot reach.
- There’s an urban legend that says gum takes 7 years to digest, but that isn’t true. Swallowing a few pieces by accident is no big deal, however, a large amount of gum can block your intestines, which can be dangerous. Make sure children don’t chew gum until they understand that it isn’t supposed to be swallowed.
- If you have braces, you will want to skip chewing gum. Gum can cause wires in your braces to bend and loosen.
There is No Substitute for Brushing and Flossing!
Some people get the idea in their head that chewing gum is a replacement for brushing and flossing. That’s not true!
Chewing gum does increase your saliva flow which has many oral health benefits. But, there is just no substitute for physically scrubbing plaque off teeth the way brushing and flossing does.