Oral care is one of the biggest health and self-care items that people focus on. We all want bright, white smiles and straight teeth. Fortunately, most people know what it takes to achieve good oral health. It requires brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing, using mouthwash and getting bi-annual checkups.
People also know to avoid damaging foods and chemicals like cigarettes, excessive amounts of coffee or highly acidic foods. Unfortunately, there are certain foods where people just don’t know if they are harmful or not. This is either because of mixed messages, marketing or just a lack of knowledge. To that end, one of the most common questions dentists get is about the health impact of gum.
A Sticky Situation
With the amount of research that has been done on chewing gum and oral health, the answer is pretty clear. Chewing gum is good for oral health as long as you follow two clear rules.
- Chew sugar-free or low-sugar gum
- Do not chew gum excessively or for long periods of time
Chewing gum helps your teeth in multiple ways. It can help by removing particles that might be stuck between your teeth that could potentially create cavities. Many studies have shown that food particles in between teeth are more harmful than those on the fronts or backs and chewing gum can dislodge these particles. When you chew gum, the movements between each tooth act to dislodge food particles and “clean” your teeth, though it is important to know that gum is not a substitute for brushing.
Additionally, chewing gum stimulates more saliva production which can help fight the effects of dry mouth. Dry mouth is a particularly bad oral condition that can lead to additional bacteria growth and serious damage.
Sugary Sweet Treat
Chewing gum comes in dozens of varieties and flavors. Unfortunately, not all chewing gum is created equal. Certain brands of popular gums have significant amounts of sugar that are just as harmful to your teeth as other candy.
In order to get the health benefits of chewing gum, you must make sure to chew low sugar or preferably sugar-free gums. These gums use artificial sweeteners that are not harmful and won’t create further problems.
While the movements created by chewing gum are still beneficial, the sugar problem outweighs any positives. With sugar-free gum, you get the best of both worlds by being able to chew gum freely and get some oral benefits out of them.
The only thing to watch out for is to avoid chewing gum excessively or for extended periods of time.
Violet, You’re Turning Violet
As with anything, it is possible to have too much of a good thing when it comes to healthy chewing gum. Chewing too many pieces at a time or chewing for a long time can cause other types of damage to your teeth, gums, and jaw.
Chewing on a large mass such as with too large of a piece, you can stress your jaw and create problems ranging from clicking and muscle soreness to more serious concerns like dislocated jaws.
Alternatively, chewing hard gum that is old can lead to undue stress on individual teeth which can be very damaging in the long term. Dentists recommend that you chew gum for only about 20 minutes at a time.
Gum and Your Gums
While chewing gum is absolutely not a replacement for key oral health habits, it can help your teeth if chewed appropriately. By making sure to chew for a reasonable length of time and by using sugar-free, healthy gum, you can enjoy this treat without any worries for your oral health.
As always, the best place to get advice is with your dentist. Remember to get checked out twice a year and contact us today if you have any questions about gum or just want to get your exam done.