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Oral Health Buzz

Chewing Sugarless Gum Can Prevent Tooth Decay

Rebecca Desfosse

There's an easy way to prevent tooth decay - and it's as simple as chewing a stick of gum. People have been chewing gum since early Native Americans chewed resin from trees. These days, chewing gum (and the loud smacking sound that typically accompanies it) has negative connotations and was probably strictly forbidden by your sixth grade math teacher. However, could that forbidden gum actually be good for your teeth? According to the American Dental Association, if it's sugarless, it could be.

Studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum for just twenty minutes after eating can reduce tooth decay. It's all thanks to the increase of saliva in your mouth caused by chewing the gum. Saliva is extremely beneficial to oral health - clearing out food remnants and other debris, neutralizing acids to help prevent erosion of the tooth enamel, and getting rid of bacteria to prevent tooth decay. Saliva also contains nutrients like calcium, fluoride, and phosphates that strengthen tooth enamel. Without adequate saliva flow, you're at risk for numerous oral health problems like tooth decay, gum disease, and other infections.

Chewing is the number one way to increase saliva flow. That's where chewing gum comes in. As you chew gum, you continually make a chewing motion, producing more and more saliva with every chomp. However, in order to see any benefits of saliva production, you'll need to stick with a sugarless gum. While it is true that chewing regular gum will increase saliva flow, the sugar present in it causes the bacteria and acids that lead to tooth decay to develop in the mouth, quickly negating any positive effects of the gum. Instead, choose gum sweetened by "fake" sweeteners such as xylitol or sorbitol that don't cause cavities.

Chewing gum shouldn't replace regular brushing, flossing, and dental checkups. Rather, it should be used as a supplement to these practices. If you're already a gum addict, stick to sugarless and reap the oral health rewards.

Source: Flickr Creative Commons

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