Is Chewing Gum Good for Your Teeth?
The idea that chewing gum is good for your teeth seems a little too good to be true. Very few enjoyable things in this life are actually good for you, it seems, and a lot of people find that chewing gum helps to relax them, keep them occupied, and keep hunger pangs at bay.
So, what’s the truth, is chewing gum really good for your teeth, can it harm them in any way, and is there a specific type of gum that you should be chewing?
Gum Stimulates Saliva
The act of chewing gum stimulates saliva production, and this is essential for oral health, as saliva is your body’s defense against bacteria and acid. It can also dislodge particles from the teeth and because the gum doesn’t break down like food, it doesn’t create any additional particles and problems.
For this to work, however, it needs to be sugar-free gum. If you’re chewing bubblegum that’s loaded with flavorings and sugar, you’ll stimulate the production of harmful bacteria and this is what attacks your teeth and gradually wears your enamel down.
The Magic of Xylitol
Anytime a sugar-free gum is being marketed for its oral health benefits, you’ll see advertisers making a big song and dance about the inclusion of xylitol. But what is it?
Xylitol is a simple sugar alcohol that mimics sugar but is not loaded with calories. More importantly, the bacteria in your mouth cannot feed on xylitol as they can sugar, so it doesn’t create the same problems.
The more you chew, the more saliva you produce and the more desperate the bacteria in your mouth becomes. If there is nothing for that bacteria to feed off, their numbers will fall, and the risk of cavities will fall with them.
Xylitol has been approved by a number of food safety agencies. It is considered safe and effective by the FDA here in the US and by EU authorities and the World Health Organization.
How Much Should You Chew?
Experts recommend consuming xylitol gum between 3 and 5 times daily, for a total of 5 grams. They recommend chewing for at least 5 minutes at a time.
Xylitol can also be found in mints, although the regular chewing action of gum may produce more benefits and help to dislodge more food particles.
It can have a laxative effect when consumed in large quantities and excessive consumption may also stimulate the production of stomach acid, so be careful if you have digestive issues or GERD.
Can Chewing Gum Whiten Your Teeth?
Contrary to what the flashy commercials and smiling models would have you believe, chewing gum cannot whiten your teeth. These claims are a little dubious and they exist because there is some truth to them.
As noted above, chewing gum can help to reduce plaque and as plaque forms on your teeth and discolors them, there is a modicum of truth to the suggestion that gum can whiten your teeth.
However, that’s not what people think when they purchase teeth whitening gum. They do so on the assumption that this gum will magically turn their yellowed teeth white, and this just won’t happen.
As we have noted many times before, your teeth can become discolored for a number of reasons and this discoloration can take on several forms. It could simply be a plaque, which stays on the surface of your teeth and can be removed with brushing. It could be tartar, which is hardened plaque that can only be removed by a dentist.
Finally, it can also be the result of stained dentin, which is one of the most common types of discoloration. Dentin is the inner surface of the tooth and can’t be reached by your brush or by chewing gum.
To whitening this part of the tooth, you need a teeth whitening kit like Snow. Only then can you get the shimmering pearly whites you have always wanted!
And Don’t Forget…
…always dispose of your gum responsibly! It has been estimated that as much as 90% of all gum is not disposed of correctly, causing a massive problem.
Most gum is made from synthetic polymers and these do not biodegrade. When you spit it on the sidewalk, it doesn’t simply breakdown and washes away. Your local authority has to pay someone to remove it—a costly and time-consuming process.
Gum discarded in this manner can also find its way into the food chain and has even been found in fish, where these toxins can accumulate over time. That’s why many local authorities have banned chewing gum and why even some authorities (including Singapore) have followed suit.