Bubble gum is a childhood favorite. The combination of sweetness, messiness and noise is irresistible to many kids. Parents, however, should be concerned not only about what types of gum their children chew, but also how often and how long the gum is in their mouths.
Chewing Gum: The Good and Bad
Chewing gum can affect teeth positively and negatively. Gum sweetened with sugar, like most bubble-producing varieties are, can create cavities in teeth by reacting with the bacteria in dental plaque to produce enamel-eroding acids. Gum sweetened with sugar can do significant damage because it doesn't dissolve, and can get pressed against teeth for longer periods of time than candy.
The act of chewing, however, is good for your teeth. Chewing promotes the production of saliva, which helps wash away food particles from around teeth and gums while neutralizing the acids that cause tooth decay.
These benefits are not enough to make chewing sugary gums beneficial. When your child chews sugar-filled gum, they are doing their teeth more harm than good as long as there is still sugar or flavor in the gum. If they keep chewing long after the gum has lost its taste, the benefits may win out, but few kids will continue chewing old, flavorless gum when there is a fresh piece nearby.
Making Gum Work for Your Teeth
Sugar-free gum is another option. Without the sugar to feed on, the bacteria in children's mouths won't produce the same amount of acid, and the increased saliva flow will actually help prevent cavities.
There are many times when your child will have access to bubble gum sweetened with sugar instead of other sweeteners like xylitol. In these cases, you can make your child aware of the dangers of chewing the sweetened gums in their treat bags, and offer to trade them for xylitol-sweetened gum. You can also help them reduce the effects of gum chewing by encouraging them to brush, or at least rinse, after disposing of the gum.
Read more about saliva and chewing gum in the Colgate Oral Care resources.