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Consumer News — Chewing gum reduces sensitivity from whitening

You want a brighter smile, but a tooth whitening treatment might temporarily make your pearly whites more sensitive.

Researchers may have discovered an easy strategy for reducing sensitivity—chewing gum.

In a study published in the British Dental Journal, 88 patients who had their teeth whitened in a single, in-office dental visit were randomly assigned to one of three groups: participants who chewed a sugar-free gum, participants who chewed a sugar-free gum with Recaldent (a milk-based product that helps strengthen teeth by delivering calcium and phosphate to teeth to remineralize enamel) or participants who did not use a desensitizing agent.

In results that surprised even the researchers, patients who chewed either type of sugar-free gum experienced significantly less intense tooth sensitivity than the group who didn't chew gum.

Scientists theorize that the act of chewing may have offered the patients therapeutic benefit, possibly because of creating increased saliva flow to reduce sensitivity or even simply distracting patients from pain awareness while they are chewing, and the remineralizing agent in one of the gums wasn't significantly better at desensitizing teeth.

According to the ADA, "chewing gum in various forms has been around since ancient times. The Greeks chewed sap from the mastic tree, called mastiche. On the other side of the world, the ancient Mayans favored the sap of the sapodilla tree (called tsiclte). Native Americans from New England chewed spruce sap — a habit they passed on to European settlers. Today, the base used for most gum products is a blend of synthetic materials (elastomeres, resins and waxes in various proportions). However, chewing gum is as popular as ever."

Currently, two sugar-free gums carry the ADA Seal of Acceptance. Clinical studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following meals can help prevent tooth decay.

For more details on how chewing gum can help your oral health, visit ADA.org (http://www.ada.org/1315.aspx). For information on tooth whitening, see Tooth Whitening Treatments under the Oral Health Topics section (http://www.ada.org/2993.aspx?currentTab=1).

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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