Do you love chewing gum? You're not alone. The average American chews 1.8 pounds of gum every year, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. While you may think of gum as a type of sweet, that's not strictly true. Some types of gum are actually good for your teeth. If you opt for sugar-free varieties, you can enjoy the following benefits of chewing gum.
1. Increasing Saliva Flow
People with dry mouth have an inadequate flow of saliva, which can cause discomfort when eating, swallowing or speaking. Dry mouth can occur as a side effect of some medications, such as antihistamines and muscle relaxants. Your doctor may recommend various ways to manage this unpleasant side effect, including chewing gum.
When you chew, your muscles compress your salivary glands. This helps release saliva, explains the American Dental Association (ADA). Chewing is the most efficient way to increase the flow of saliva.
2. Preventing Tooth Decay
Saliva doesn't just keep your mouth moist and comfortable; it also helps wash away food debris and remove germs that can cause tooth cavities. Nutrients like calcium and other substances such as fluoride are found in saliva, and these substances help strengthen tooth enamel. Since chewing gum helps increase your salivary flow, it can aid in preventing tooth cavities.
Studies have shown that people can reduce tooth cavities just by chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after eating, reports the ADA. Of course, that doesn't mean chewing gum is a substitute for regular brushing, which helps to prevent plaque, gum problems, tartar build-up, cavities and bad breath. Rather, consider the benefits of chewing gum a helpful addition to your oral care routine.
3. Whitening Teeth
Teeth whitening is a major concern, and for good reason. Many common habits can lead to tooth discolouration, including drinking coffee and smoking. Foods like red sauces and dark-coloured fruits can discolour the teeth, too. Many products are available to help remove these surface stains, including toothpastes and at-home whitening kits.
There are even whitening chewing gums on the market. These products can be chewed after meals and help wash away food particles that could cause stains by stimulating salivary flow. These gums also coat the teeth to help prevent stains.
4. Combating Bad Breath
Bad breath is embarrassing, but everyone experiences it occasionally. Sometimes, it can be caused by something as simple as eating too much garlic. In other cases, bad breath can be a symptom of more serious oral health conditions like gum disease or dry mouth.
The pleasant minty, fruity or cinnamon smells of sugar-free gums can help temporarily mask bad breath odors. Chewing gum can help improve bad breath caused by dry mouth even after the flavour has faded, since it helps stimulate the flow of saliva.
There's no need to feel guilty about your habit of chewing gum. Simply choose sugar-free varieties, and you can enjoy many benefits beyond the fun of blowing bubbles. Of course, don't forget to brush and floss your teeth regularly in addition to using gum, and never skip a visit to your dentist.