Is Chewing Gum Bad For Teeth?
Is chewing gum bad for your teeth? Dentists hear that question a lot, and the answer is – it depends. Chewing gum has its drawbacks, but it also has some benefits that make gum not so bad after all. What’s more, a number of factors can influence just how good or bad chewing gum is for your teeth.
When it comes to gum, for example, type matters: what you chew is almost as important as whether you chew. Gum that contains sugar bathes teeth in a sticky sweetness that bacteria love to eat. However, as bacteria feed on the sugar in gum, they produce acid that can erode tooth enamel; this increases your chances of getting a cavity.
Sugar-free gum, on the other hand, does not feed the bacteria that cause cavities. In fact, science says chewing sugar-free gum can actually help prevent cavities. As you chew sugar-free gum, you mash it between your teeth, which forces the gum into the little nooks and crannies where your toothbrush and floss cannot reach. The gum sticks to food debris and pulls it out of the deep spaces between your teeth.
Sugar-free gum also cleans your teeth by stimulating saliva production inside your mouth by as much as ten times. Saliva helps rinse off and neutralize the acids that are harmful to tooth enamel. Saliva also washes away food particles.
Xylitol in Chewing Gum
Your gum gets double points if it contains xylitol, which is a sugar alcohol that is close to the sweetness of sugar, so your chewing gum is as delicious as always. Xylitol inhibits the growth of Streptococcus mutants, one of the oral bacteria that cause cavities, but does it in a surprising way.
These bacteria cannot use xylitol as fuel, but they do ingest it. The xylitol then prevents the bacteria from absorbing other sugars, which means the bacteria cannot get the energy they need to live, so they die. In other words, chewing gum with xylitol starves the bad bacteria in your mouth before they can cause tooth decay. In the presence of xylitol, the bacteria also lose their ability to adhere to the tooth, which protects the tooth enamel even more.
When Not to Chew
Knowing when to chew gum is almost as important as knowing what gum to chew. Chewing gum may be bad for you if you have jaw pain that worsens when you chew gum. Jaw pain may be from temporomandibular disease (TMD), which is a condition that affects the temporomandibular joint where your jaw attaches to your skull. Chewing gum can worsen this pain.
While chewing gum does have its advantages – especially if you chew sugar-free gum with xylitol – it is not a replacement for brushing and flossing. Instead, chewing gum is a good way to temporarily clean your mouth immediately after a meal, when the food and debris in your mouth are still fresh and haven’t hardened.
Williams, Daily & Frazier Dental is a family and cosmetic dentist located in North Raleigh, NC with a team of dedicated dentists enthusiastic in their commitment to
their patients. We offer dental implants, Invisalign teeth straightening, in-office and home teeth whitening options, and Oral-B electric toothbrushes.
Contact Williams, Daily & Frazier at (919) 846-9070 for more information and to schedule an appointment today.