Almost every grocery store, convenience store, gas station and drugstore offers packages of gum in the checkout aisle. While sugar-free gum is a near-constant option among the many varieties of gum on the market, some myths surrounding the treat can leave you feeling confused about how it should be used. It is sometimes advertised as a dental aid and sometimes as a diet aid, and some of the facts surrounding gum made with xylitol instead of sugar can leave you scratching your head. Here, we debunk the myths surrounding the gum and offer better solutions for a healthy mouth and body.
Myth 1: Sugar-Free Gum Can Help You Lose Weight
Although there are no studies that note that gum or xylitol can cause you to drop pounds, there is some evidence that gum chewing can be used as a diet aid. While it won't cause you to shed pounds, if you pop a piece of gum in your mouth the next time you're craving a sweet treat, you could save yourself a few extra calories each day. With flavors that range from mint to apple pie, gum may be a small way to keep your mouth busy so that you don't reach for a snack. Therefore, gum can help you reduce caloric intake, but it won't help you lose weight without any other special effort.
Myth 2: Sugar-Free Gum Prevents Cavities
Chewing gum to skip a trip to the dentist's office? While some gum packages advertise that they'll prevent cavities, gum should never be used as an alternative to proper oral hygiene and dental visits. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recognizes that xylitol, the sugar substitute used in many sugar-free gums, helps prevent bacterial adherence on teeth and the formation of plaque. Xylitol, therefore, helps prevent cavities. The AAPD also notes that there is some evidence that the actual chewing of this type of gum may help improve its cavity-reducing effect. Still, you should brush twice a day with a toothpaste containing fluoride, such as Colgate® Cavity Protection, to really prevent cavities.
Myth 3: Sugar-Free Gum Remains in Your Digestive Tract for Seven Years
Your Mom probably told you that it was bad to swallow gum because it will remain in your stomach for almost a decade. Sound familiar? It's a common myth. Although gum is technically indigestible — meaning that your body cannot extract and process nutrients from it as it moves through the digestive tract — you don't have to worry about housing gum in your stomach for seven years. In fact, gastroenterologist Nancy McGreal tells Duke Health that, while your digestive system can't process chewing gum, the gum will still move through the tract just as any other indigestible item, such as unchewed seeds, would.
Whether you use it to freshen your breath or to stop you from reaching for a slice of cake, chewing gum is a part of millions of Americans' regular routines. By understanding the effects that sugar-free gum can have on your mouth and body, you can decide whether it's right for you and your family — as a treat, rather than as a replacement for proper oral care.