To chew the gum or not?

Most of us chew on the gum. But is chewing  on the gum beneficial to your teeth and mouth? Clinical research has shown that chewing on sugarless gum increases the salivary flow in the mouth. The physical act of chewing on sugarless gum for 20 minutes after a meal increases saliva and

  • washes away food and other debris
  • neutralises the acids produced by the bacteria
  • Increases the calcium and phosphate in the saliva, that helps strengthen the tooth enamel

The type of gum you chew on is therefore important. If the gum contains sugar, the chances are you may develop tooth decay. The decay causing bacteria uses the sugar in the gums as a their substrate and produce acids. These acids damage the tooth enamel and cause cavities.

Using the terms “Sugar free” or “Sugarless gum” can be misleading. Because these gums have artificial sweetening agents. Substances like xylitol, mannitol, sorbitol or aspartame are used as sweetening agents. But the good news is that, your saliva cannot break down these ingredients. So they cannot contribute to cavity formation!!!! On the contrary, chewing on gum sweetened with xylitol may have beneficial effects. Xylitol has an inhibiting effect on the growth of Sterptococcus mutans. S. mutans is the main bacteria in causing decay in the mouth. Xylitol prevents the adherence of the bacteria on to the tooth. Extended periods of use of xylitol alters the composition of the mouth microflora. You will have fewer decay causing bacteria that survive on the tooth.

Some brands of gums may be fortified with calcium-phosphorous. This is said to remineralise and harden enamel.

What is chewing gum made of?

Typically, the gum is  composed of

  • Gum base
  • Artificial sweeteners (Sorbitol, aspartame, mannitol, xylitol)
  • Softeners (glycerine or vegetable oil)
  • Flavourings and colourings

What are the damages of gum chewing?

  • Although sugarless gum may be beneficial in preventing decay, sugared gums contribute to the decay process. If you wish to chew a sugared gum, select a brand of gum that has lesser quantities of sugar.
  • Manufacturers claim that their products can be used at all times. However, if you already suffer from TMD problems, its best to avoid chewing the gum. TMD disorders involve the joint of the jaw called the temporomandibular joint. There can be clicking or pain in the joint in its mild form. Chewing on gum continuously may also cause TMD problems like strong facial pain and pain and discomfort in the back of the neck.
  • Continuous gum chewing can increase the stress on the stomach and intestine. Chewing gum increases the salivary output. Chewing gum after meals increases the amounts of saliva swallowed and this interferes with the normal digestion process. You can have gastric irritation, stomach pains, aggravated gastritis and gastric ulcer in severe cases.

A word of caution to all you gum chewers. Chewing gum for it’s beneficial effects is not a substitute for regular brushing and flossing. You have to follow your stringent brushing twice a day and flossing routines. And never miss your appointments scheduled with your dentist.