Thursday, February 25, 2016

Chewing Gum: A Mouth's Best Friend

Chewing sugarless gum after meals is an effective -- and easy -- way to keep teeth their healthy best.  

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), chewing gum in various forms has been enjoyed since ancient times. The Greeks chewed sap called mastiche from the mastic tree. The ancient Maya favored the sap of the sapodilla tree (called tsiclte), and Native Americans in New England chewed spruce sap, a habit they passed on to European settlers.

Today, chewing gum, particularly sugar free, is as popular as ever, though the ingredients for most gum products have switched from tree saps to a blend of synthetic materials (elastomers, resins and waxes).

Why is chewing sugarless gum good for teeth?  The physical act of chewing sugar free gum increases the flow of saliva in the mouth. Chewing gum after eating increases salivary flow, which can help neutralize and wash away the acids that are produced when food is broken down by bacteria on the teeth.  Also, over time, acid can break down tooth enamel, creating conditions for decay. Increased saliva flow carries with it more calcium and phosphate to help strengthen tooth enamel.

Clinical studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following meals can help prevent tooth decay.  (Of course, gum doesn't replace regular brushing and flossing.)

Wilmette Dental recommends looking for gum that carries the ADA Seal, which is earned only when a product has shown scientific evidence that it is safe on dental tissue and is effective for one or more specific indications, such as reducing plaque acids, promoting remineralization of tooth enamel, reducing cavities and/or reducing gingivitis.