The most common use of chewing gum is to eliminate bad breath.
However, it also has various benefits for oral health and teeth.
You will be surprised to know that it is not a new product, in fact, the gum is an old product that originates from tree saps like Manilkara chicle.
Nowadays gum is only produced from synthetic materials.
Most parents would prevent their children from eating chewing too much gum.
It can indeed lead to cavities however, sugar-free gum does not pose that risk.
Hence, while it has its cons, it also has some advantages, especially oral health.
This article discusses the Benefits of Chewing Gum on Oral Health and whether it is good or bad for you and your child.
Keep reading to know more!
What is a Chewing Gum Made Of?
You might be conflicted on whether gum is good for health or not.
In order to understand that you will have to first know the ingredients that go into making it.
These ingredients give gum -the base ingredient its texture, flavor and softness.
It contains resin that strengthens it alongside fillers that give it its chewy texture.
These fillers include calcium carbonate or the clay mineral talc.
Ingredients such as cane sugars and corn syrups act as sweeteners to give the most important sweet flavor to the gum.
In sugar-free gum, artificial sweeteners do the job.
These include sweeteners like aspartame or a replacement to artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols such as xylitol.
Furthermore, it has the necessary preservatives that come in handy to keep these longer on the shelves.
A popular choice for a preservative is butylated hydroxytoluene.
Moreover, gums need to be soft hence the ingredients also contain a softener such as vegetable oils.
This helps to keep it soft enough and keeps its moisture intact.
Finally, not all gums taste the same. Hence, there must be some flavorings to give the gum a desired flavor.
Natural or synthetic ingredients can add that flavor to gums whether it is cinnamon or blueberry.
These ingredients are generally safe.
However, BHT and Aspartame are controversial ingredients.
BHT is a preservative that has shown to cause cancer in animals.
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that can cause mild headaches, obesity and even cancer.
Though both of these are not as harmful if used in less quantity such as in chewing gum.
Now that you know that the ingredients are generally safe, let’s find out the benefits in oral health.
Benefits of Chewing Gum For Oral Health
- Reduces Bad Breath
It goes without saying that gum helps to reduce bad breath.
It is marketed and sold mainly for this purpose.
Especially flavored gums help in masking the bad odor coming from your mouth effectively.
Therefore, you no longer need to feel embarrassed
- Relieves Dry Mouth
Dry Mouth is an uncomfortable condition.
It can hinder your ability to swallow food and also make speaking difficult.
However, when you chew a piece of gum it exerts pressure on your jaw muscles to push the salivary glands and release saliva.
The flow of saliva increases and it helps relieve your dry mouth.
As saliva is greatly beneficial for your mouth, this increase in the flow of saliva also prevents decay. More on that below!
- Teeth Whitening
You didn’t expect this right?
Amongst the different flavors and purposes of gums, there are also whitening gums.
If you chew a piece of gum after eating food, the gum can help increase the flow of saliva.
This in return, washes any food that leads to the staining of teeth.
Hence, while teeth whitening treatments are the best solution to whiten your teeth, these whitening gums can prevent your teeth from staining.
Other Health Benefits
- Decreases Stress
While this is not an oral health benefit, it is still important to discuss the effect of gum on stress.
A study indicates that people who regularly chew gum report less stress levels than those who do not.
Therefore, it does have a relaxing effect on your health.
- Results in Weight Loss
The action of chewing constantly can help reduce your appetite.
Moreover, it is sweet and contains fewer calories, so it fulfills your sugar needs without taking high-calorie food.
In fact, taking gum after a meal can reduce snacking and hunger by up to 10 percent.
Additionally, it can increase your metabolism and help you burn calories up to 19 percent more than usual.
That too can help in decreasing your weight.
- Decreases the Chance of Ear Infections
Sugar alcohol xylitol is usually present in sugar-free gums.
If children consume these then this ingredient can help prevent them from getting middle ear infections.
- Speeds Recovery Time
Many studies have shown that gum helps to recover faster after a surgery.
Therefore, if you chew it after a surgical procedure then your gut will heal fastly.
- Alternative for Smoking Addiction
Smokers find gum as a good replacement for cigarettes.
If they battle with addiction, then nicotine gums can help reduce that too.
Hence, they find it much easier to quit smoking by instantly jumping on chewing nicotine gums.
This has fewer withdrawal effects hence, prevents relapse.
Chewing a gum has numerous benefits, for your oral health and otherwise.
However, the most important benefit of gum on oral health is:
Increased Saliva Reduces Decay
As discussed above, the action of chewing increases the salivary flow.
Chewing on unsweetened gum increases the flow rate by 10 to 12 times.
Though sweetened gums produce more saliva than unsweetened ones.
Moreover, the additional flavoring helps stimulate saliva by acting as a stimulant.
This increased stimulation protects your enamel from eroding and prevents tooth decay.
Saliva reduces the acidic effects of food and drinks which can potentially lead to enamel erosion.
Swallowing this saliva also reduces the acid.
Therefore, it protects your teeth from softening.
This stimulated saliva is better in buffering the acid as it contains a high amount of sodium, chloride, protein, bicarbonate and calcium.
It works more effectively than unstimulated saliva which already exists in the mouth.
These extra proteins also make an enamel pellicle on the dental surfaces which gives the teeth extra protection.
Moreover, this stimulated saliva clears the fermented carbohydrates.
This happens before the bacteria in plaque metabolize the carbohydrates.
Moreover, it also decreases bacteria in the mouth.
The sugar alcohol xylitol in sugar-free gums decreases bacteria if chewed right after meals.
Hence, if you chew gum immediately after eating or drinking then you have fewer chances of developing decay and cavity.
The increased saliva also clears acid in the esophagus.
This is beneficial for people with gastroesophageal or acid reflux.
Therefore, it can help reduce the symptoms like nausea.
That said, chewing a piece of gum is definitely not a replacement for brushing and flossing.
It can help reduce decay, mask your bad breath, help with your dry mouth and prevent enamel erosion but it still doesn’t clean your teeth as brushing and flossing do.
You should brush your teeth twice a day a floss at least once to remove plaque stuck between your teeth.
In fact, chewing excessive gum has some disadvantages too.
What exactly are those? Find them below.
Chewing Gum Cons
The sweetened gum is not ideal to consume daily.
They contain fermented carbohydrates such as sucrose which the oral bacteria metabolize.
Eventually, the bacteria produces acid which erodes the enamel and causes caries.
Therefore, eating this gum frequently can cause cavities and demineralization of the enamel.
Though chewing it before taking your meal might reduce your chances of getting cavities then chewing it afterward.
However, an alternative exists in the form of sugar-free gums.
These contain about 0.5 grams of sugars hence they are noncariogenic.
Moreover, the bacteria metabolize these hence preventing cavity.
Gum may contain acidic flavorings such as citric acid. These can decrease the pH of plaque.
It may further decrease in chewing sweetened gums.
Though it should not fall below 5.5 as enamel dissolution may begin if the gum’s pH is below that.
It can cause erosion and caries.
Furthermore, sugar-free gums usually contain laxatives.
Hence, they can disrupt the digestive system and cause frequent diarrhea if you consume them regularly.
Sugar alcohols are also may also lead to digestive issues in people already suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Besides sweetened gums causing caries and a build-up of plaque, sugars are generally bad for health.
Excess sugar can cause insulin resistance, cardiac problems and diabetes.
Also, an excess of chewing a piece of gum can lead to a temporomandibular disorder that causes pain in your jaw.
Moreover, there is also speculation that excess gum chewing could lead to headaches and migraines.
Hence, you may be recommended to stop chewing it if you face regular headaches and pain in the jaw.
Though gums may have these disadvantages, they are generally safe to use especially if you take sugar-free ones.
However, it is better to look for sugar alcohols than artificial sweeteners in your sugar-free gums.
Chewing Gum has much more oral and general health benefits than you thought of.
It usually gets a bad reputation for causing caries but you can also overcome that by chewing sugar-free gum instead.
The pros surpass the cons. It does not only benefit your oral health but also your general wellbeing.
Hence, it’s time that you start including it in your routine sparsely to improve your oral hygiene and health.