You may have heard that chewing gum is bad for your teeth and that chewing gum is good for your teeth. So what’s the answer?
Chewing gum can be good and bad for your teeth depending on what type of gum you chew.
Gum can basically be classified into three different types based on how it is sweetened:
1 – Gum that is sweetened the old-fashioned way – with sugar.
2 – Gum that is sweetened with artificial sweeteners like aspartame.
3 – Gum that is sweetened with sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and xylitol.
Let’s take a look at all of these types of gum and how they affect your teeth.
Chewing Gum Sweetened with Sugar and Your Teeth
When you chew gum sweetened with sugar, there are basically two phases. In the first phase, which can last for 10 minutes or more, you are releasing sugar from the gum into your mouth. The bacteria in your plaque love to feed on the sugar found in sugary chewing gum and hurt your teeth. The sugar in chewing gum sweetened with sugar can stick around in your mouth for a long time and continue to feed the bacteria that live on your teeth, allowing them to harm your teeth.
After a certain amount of time has passed, you will enter the second phase of chewing sugary gum as you will have swallowed all of the sugar in the chewing gum. Because the act of chewing causes you to make more spit, the chewing gum is usually able to promote re-mineralization of your teeth’s enamel after all of the sugar has left your mouth.
Chewing Gum Sweetened with Artificial Sweeteners
If you chew gum sweetened with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame or Sucralose, you will eliminate the first phase of chewing sugary gum that I mentioned above. You will simply be stimulating the flow of saliva in your mouth. This is a good thing because saliva can protect your teeth in many ways.
The textbook Dental Caries by Ole Fejerskov states, “Sugar-free chewing gum, in addition to being sweetened with non-cariogenic sweeteners, provides a gustatory and mechanical antidepressants stimulus to salivary flow and therefore may be considered as cariostatic. Chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes following a meal or snack has been shown to accelerate the return to resting oral pH.”
Basically, Ole is saying that when you chew gum that doesn’t have sugar, it stimulates the flow of saliva due to the wonderful taste of the gum and because of the chewing action. If you chew gum after you eat a meal, it will help your mouth return to an optimal pH. If you’re not sure what that means, you can about what happens in your mouth every time you eat or drink.
Chewing Gum Sweetened with Sugar Alcohols
The last main type of chewing gum is the gum that is sweetened with sugar alcohols such as xylitol and sorbitol. Xylitol has been shown to help fight against the bacteria that eat away your teeth.
Learn more about how xylitol protects your teeth!
Chewing gum that contains xylitol is like the holy grail of chewing gum when it comes to your oral health! When you chew gum that contains xylitol, you get all of the benefits of chewing sugar-free gum mentioned above. In addition to those benefits, you get the cavity-fighting power of xylitol.
What more could you ask for in a little piece piece of gum?
If you’re wondering where to find it, xylitol is found in a variety of chewing gums, such as the Trident gum pictured to the right. You can make sure that the gum you chew contains xylitol by checking on the ingredient list on the back of the package.
In summary, here’s the three main types of chewing gums listed from best to worst for your teeth:
1 – Xylitol-sweetened chewing gum
2 – Artifically sweetened chewing gum
3 – Sugar-sweeteneed chewing gum
It’s also important to remember that chewing gum helps release saliva which helps to rinse sugar away from your teeth.
Do you have any questions or comments about how chewing gum affects your oral health? I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!