does chewing gum prevent cavities

For many years our parents have been telling us not to chew gums as they are bad for teeth.

Chewing gums are believed to be the cause of tooth decay, cavities, and many other dental problems.

While there are gums that can cause harm to your oral health, sugar-free chewing gums are good to use.

Sugar-free gums often contain xylitol, which is a plant-based sweetener that acts as a sugar substitute.

Xylitol has many medicinal properties which strengthen the tooth surface and prevents tooth decay.

Additionally, sugar-free gums are a great way to increase the salivary flow, which automatically cleans the mouth off of bacteria and plaque.

Saliva also maintains a neutral pH level in the mouth. Moreover, it provides essential minerals to the enamel for remineralization.

The best way to choose a sugarless gum is to look for an ADA seal. This verifies their authenticity, safety, and effectiveness.

However, while enjoying all the benefits, do not replace regular tooth brushing and flossing with chewing gums.

Today’s article will highlight the benefits of sugar-free chewing gum in preventing tooth decay and cavities.

How are sugar-free gums different from natural chewing gums?

Sugar-free chewing gums are an addition to the oral healthcare routine rather than a replacement of tooth brushing or flossing.

Sugar-free chewing gums do not contain the harmful sugars or added artificial sweeteners that harm oral health.

Most of the sugar-free gum contains a natural plant-based sweetener called xylitol.

Oral bacteria do not readily metabolize xylitol. It is, therefore, non-cariogenic and useful addition to the chewing gum. (1)

How does sugar-free chewing gum prevent cavities?

Now that you know about the main ingredient that eliminates the sugar content in such gums let’s look at the mechanism of action of sugar-free chewing gums –

  • Xylitol present in sugar-free chewing gums effectively prevents the growth of Streptococcus mutans, the only bacteria that initiate the process of tooth decay in the mouth.
  • The stickiness of chewing gum helps to clear the food debris present after a meal and cleans the mouth.
  • Chewing sugar-free gums increases salivary flow in the mouth. (2)
  • Saliva is beneficial in many ways. It flushes out the food debris and plaque from the tooth surface, neutralizes the pH of the mouth and prevents acid erosion of enamel. Moreover, saliva provides minerals like calcium, fluoride, and phosphates that strengthen the enamel

All these activities maintain oral health and prevent the formation of tooth decay and cavities.

Additionally, it also prevents gum diseases and oral infections. Sugar-free gums, to some extent, also aid in proper digestion of the food. (3)

Are there any side effects of chewing sugar-free gum?

Studies have shown that chewing sugar-free gums for 20 minutes increases salivary flow, neutralizes the pH level of the mouth, and prevents the risk of developing tooth decay.

However, it is recommended not to chew the gum for more than 20 minutes as it may aggravate the facial and jaw muscles leading to temporomandibular joint disorders. Symptoms of this disorder may include –

  • Pain and soreness while chewing food
  • Pain in the jaws
  • Muscle spasm
  • Headache
  • Difficulty in opening and closing of the mouth

Additionally, some sugar-free chewing gums may contain certain ingredients that may cause gastrointestinal bloating or discomfort.

Ideally, the daily intake of xylitol should be 4-15 grams per day. Increased consumption of sugar-free gums can cause laxative effects.

The stickiness of sugar-free chewing gums is beneficial to remove the food debris from the mouth.

However, it can be risky for people with crowns or fillings as the chewing gum may loosen the fit in rare instances.

What should you do before buying a chewing gum?

There are a few things that you should consider before heading to the drugstore to buy a pack of chewing gum.

  • Check for the presence of xylitol, sorbitol, aspartame or mannitol as sweeteners instead of sugar or fructose. Xylitol and other sugar substitutes are sugar-free and beneficial for the teeth. (4)
  • Always look for an ADA seal of approval to verify and confirm the safety and efficiency of the sugar-free chewing gum.
  • Never allow a child below five years of age to chew chewing gums. Sugar-free chewing gums containing xylitol are useful for children who are about to have their permanent set of teeth which around the age of five to six years.
  • Always consult your dentist to choose the best sugar-free chewing gum. Additionally, you can also discuss other methods of oral healthcare aids to maintain good oral hygiene.
  • Never use sugar-free chewing gums as a replacement of regular tooth brushing or flossing as it only acts as an adjunctive.

Take away message

Sugar-free chewing gums are breaking the norms of being called harmful and cavity producing products.

Unlike natural chewing gums, sugar-free gums contain a natural plant-based extract called xylitol, which acts as the sugar substitute.

Xylitol additionally also contains medicinal properties that allow it to maintain a healthy oral environment.

Sugar-free gums are a great way to increase the salivary flow in the mouth. Saliva is an essential component that removes food debris, bacteria, and plaque from the surface of the tooth.

Moreover, it prevents enamel erosion by neutralizing the pH of the mouth.

All these activities strengthen the integrity of enamel and allow the teeth to stay away from tooth decay and cavity formations.

With all the benefits in hand, sugar-free gums also have specific side effects.

One of them may include gastrointestinal discomfort, laxative activity, and temporomandibular joint disorder.

However, these issues can be resolved by careful selection and consumption of the gum.

Your dentist can give you better advice and options for selecting the best sugar-free chewing gums suitable for you.

Always look for an ADA seal of approval to stay safe and take advantage of the practical results of chewing sugar-free gums.