Chewing gum can either promote cavities or protect against them, depending on the variety used. Several clinical studies have found that chewing sugarless gum after snacks and meals can protect against tooth decay. To reap the full cavity-fighting benefits of gum, though, there are a few things you should know.
So, how exactly does chewing gum—a favorite among children—prevent tooth decay? Chewing gum triggers the saliva glands in the mouth, which subsequently rinses out bacteria-ridden food and debris while neutralizing germs. Those small pieces of food left in the back of your mouth from your most recent meal may seem harmless enough, but they can harbor millions of decay-causing germs. Chomping down a piece of sugarless chewing gum will promote more saliva in your mouth to wash away this food debris.
Certain varieties of sugarless chewing gum also contain chemicals which neutralize cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth, adding another barrier of defense against tooth decay. Aspartame, xylitol, sorbitol, and mannitol are some of the most common ingredients used in sugarless gum.
Why You Should Avoid Sugar-Based Chewing Gum
The American Dental Association (ADA) advises against chewing gum that contains sugar. Plaque bacteria feed on sugar, converting it to acidic compounds that eat away at the enamel of the teeth – not to mention the fact that sugar is essentially an empty-calorie food with no nutritional value or benefit. Regardless of the brand, flavor, or type, all chewing gum containing sugar should be avoided.
Choosing The Right Chewing Gum
When choosing a variety of sugarless chewing gum, make sure it possess the ADA seal of approval. This seal, which is commonly found on a variety of oral care products, indicates the product has been approved for use by the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs. Chewing gum with the ADA seal is not only safe for your mouth, but it actually helps to clean and protect the teeth.
Certain varieties of Orbit, Trident, Eclipse, and Extra all have the ADA seal of approval.
Warning: Keep Your Sugarless Gum Away From Your Dog!
While sugarless chewing gum is an effective tool for warding off cavities, it can also be toxic to dogs. This is especially true for gum containing the artificial sweetener xylitol, as consumption by a dog may lead to life-threatening toxicity.
According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, consumption of xylitol in canines can lead depression, lethargy, loss of coordination, and seizures in as little as half an hour. The bottom line is that you should keep your sugarless gum away from Fido!
To schedule a checkup with one of our dentists, call Little Rock Family Dental Care at 501-954-9900.