Chewing gum often gets a bad rap. Teachers ban it from classrooms to prevent the bottom of desks from becoming stick Petri dishes of bacteria. Pedestrians must always stay vigilant so they don’t find their foot stuck to the pavement, and nearly every child has sported a lopsided haircut at one time arising from the need to cut out a piece that made its way into their hair. Chewing gum even became such a pub to lic nuisance that it was banned in the entire nation of Singapore in 1992, and, while not a full-fledged ban, you won’t find any gum for sale at places like Disneyland, Six Flags, or SeaWorld either.
However, many people might be surprised to learn that one of the biggest fans of chewing gum is their dentist. The American Dental Association has recognized that scientific evidence shows that chewing gum can help protect the health of your teeth and gums, and recommends people chew after meals when they can’t brush.
How Chewing Gum Helps
Every time you eat sugar, the sticky bacteria in your mouth known as plaque begins producing an acid that eats away at your teeth’s enamel for 20 minutes at a time. Since most people don’t brush immediately after meals or snacking, they give these plaque acids plenty of time to do some serious long-term damage to their teeth. Given enough time and frequent attacks, plaque acid can cause you to experience the effects of tooth decay and gum disease.
Chewing gum after a meal causes your mouth to increase the amount of saliva it produces. This excess saliva helps to wash away plaque acids and food particles from your teeth,
which makes the damage done to your teeth after a meal significantly less harmful. Clinical studies have proven that chewing gum for 20 minutes after a meal will help prevent tooth decay, and gum can also cause the remineralization of tooth enamel and reduce your risk of gingivitis.
Chewing gum is especially helpful to individuals who frequently snack throughout the day. Because your mouth produces less saliva while snacking than it does after a meal, more plaque acid remains on your teeth after you drink a can of soda or eat a candy bar than after a full meal. By chewing gum immediately after snacking, you can increase the amount of saliva in your mouth, and help negate the effect of plaque acid.
Not all Chewing Gum is Created Equal
Since sugar causes the plaque in your mouth to produce enamel-eating acid, chewing a stick of sweetened gum after a meal will only cause more acid to be produced in your mouth, negating the extra saliva generated by chewing. Currently, only sugarless brands of gum carry the ADA seal of approval. If you have any questions about whether a pack of gum is sugar-free, just look for the ADA Seal on the gum’s packaging. Since companies who want to carry the seal must seek ADA approval, you can trust any brand carrying an ADA seal will help protect your teeth. You can also find a complete list of ADA-approved gums on the organization’s website.
Of course, no matter how much gum you chew, it can not replace the need to brush and floss at least twice a day. But for those times when you can’t brush, a piece of gum can help you stick it to plaque instead.