“Shouldn’t that be healthy gums,” you’re thinking? And, of course, you’re correct. Healthy gums are extremely important not only for our dental well-being, but for our overall physical health.
But that’s a subject for another blog! Today, we’re talking about healthy gum—chewing gum, that is. Because choosing the right chewing gum can actually improve your dental health.
Oral bacteria use the foods we eat, especially sugars and simple carbs, as fuel to produce acid. These acids attack our tooth enamel, gradually weakening the minerals in the tooth surface and allowing cavities to develop. Clearly, we want to reduce these acids to help prevent decay. Luckily, our bodies have a natural defense against acid attacks—saliva.
Saliva works to protect our enamel in three ways:
- It helps neutralize and wash away acids in the mouth.
- It rinses away the food particles which bacteria feed on.
- It strengthens teeth by providing the necessary minerals our enamel needs to “remineralize” after acids have weakened the tooth surface.
Studies have concluded that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minute after a meal can help prevent cavities. Why? Because chewing gum increases saliva production. You are actually reducing the effects of harmful acids, washing food particles away from your teeth, and strengthening weakened enamel with every stick! Some artificial sweeteners are even thought to inhibit the growth of the bacteria that lead to decay.
With all that in mind, it’s also healthy to know when you shouldn’t chew gum:
- When the gum contains sugar. Even with an increase in saliva production, bathing your teeth in sugar as you chew does your enamel no favors!
- When you wear braces. Gum can stick to your brackets and between your brackets and your wires. And while trying to clean gum from your appliance is no one’s idea of fun, an even more unpleasant possibility is the chance that gum might bend your wires out of shape. Sugarless gum is not quite as sticky as regular gum, but before you open that first pack, check with your orthodontist to see if you might be putting your orthodontic work at risk.
- When you have jaw problems such as TMD, TMJ or other temporomandibular concerns, or if you develop jaw pain while chewing gum.
- You should never give gum to a child too young to understand that it should not be swallowed. Beyond acting as a choking hazard, continual gum swallowing can lead to diarrhea, blockages, abdominal pain and other serious problems. Talk to your the doctor about the right age for chewing gum.
While chewing sugarless gum has the potential to improve dental health, remember it should never take the place of regular brushing and flossing—still the best way to prevent cavities at home. Talk to the doctor about the possible benefits of sugarless gum at your next visit to our Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania office, and we can make recommendations based on your individual dental history. Because whether it’s healthy gums or healthy gum, we’re here to help.