Teeth and chewing gum - savina dental clinics malta and gozo

People began chewing gum thousands of years ago. Today, confectionaries sell over 370 billion pieces of chewing gum across the globe. The average time for chewing gum is about thirty minutes. But what are the effects of chewing gum on your oral health? First, let’s cover the basics before we delve into this topic in detail.

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Types of chewing gum

Sugar-containing chewing gum

Sugar-containing chewing gums have a host of additives. These include sucrose and other sweetening agents or flavours. Usually, such gums have a pleasant taste due to the sugary additives. But unfortunately, this type of gum is harmful to your teeth when used regularly.

Research shows that sugar-containing chewing gums can increase your chances of getting dental caries. This occurs as a result of the acid and biofilm produced when bacteria in your mouth metabolize the sucrose in the gum.

Sugar-free gums

Sugar-free gums are a healthier option. Any gum with a sugar content that is below 0.5 g of sugar is considered sugar-free. This does not mean that sugar-free gums are not sweet.

Chewing gum manufacturers sweeten them with saccharin, neotame, aspartame, and so on. These are non-cariogenic sweeteners and hence cannot cause caries. Also they cannot be metabolized by bacteria as fast as other forms of sugars.

Common chewing gum ingredients

Titanium Dioxide

Most companies that make chewing gum rely on titanium dioxide to manufacture appealing and colourful chewing gum. Research in animals shows that consuming a lot of titanium dioxide can lead to organ damage. In humans, researchers are yet to identify the effects of titanium dioxide.

Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)

BHT is a preservative that you will find in most processed foods. It is one of the most common ingredients that chewing gum companies use when making their products.

Research suggests that high amounts of this ingredient can lead to cancer. However, chewing gums only have a fraction of this additive and this makes most of them safe. Its effects on human health are not well known.

Aspartame

Aspartame is a form of artificial sweetener that manufacturers use to make sugar-free chewing gum. Some researchers claim that it causes a host of health problems like cancer, obesity, and so on. However, the evidence that it could lead to these problems is unclear.

Positive effects of chewing gum on your teeth

Boosting saliva flow

Acidic foods and drinks can erode your enamel, but saliva balances the PH in your mouth. Chewing gum helps in increasing salivary flow. When you chew gum, saliva stimulation is heightened.

Flavoured and sweetened gum stimulates your salivary glands more than unsweetened gums. Stimulated salivary flow also clears out fermented carbohydrates.

Cleaning your teeth

Chewing gum can help remove food particles that stick on the surfaces of your teeth or in between your teeth. While sugar-free gum will help clean your mouth, sugar-containing gums will introduce unhealthy sugar in your mouth. This may encourage the development of dental caries. If you chew sugar-free chewing gum after a meal, it undoubtedly cleans the surfaces of your teeth. Aside from that, chewing gum stimulates your salivary glands releasing more saliva into your mouth which is highly beneficial.

Alleviating bad breath

Chewing gum will not cure bad breath. However, it helps to fight bad breath. Bad breath results from bacteria that release harmful substances into your mouth. Chewing gum can help fight off the bad bacterial and mask the odour. Unfortunately, this is a temporary solution because the gum will not eradicate the bacteria.

Additionally, the act of chewing gum helps remove food debris from your teeth, which starts to cause bad odours if left to accumulate.

Might help reduce cavities

Sugar-free chewing gum can help to reduce tooth decay. Most sugarless gums have a common ingredient known as Xylitol. This ingredient slows down the multiplication of cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth, thus reducing the chances of developing cavities.

Negative effects of chewing gum on your teeth

Jaw irritation

Chewing gum very often can trigger jaw irritations such as the Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome– an extremely uncomfortable condition that causes pain whenever you move your jaws. The damage occurs when you chew or grind your teeth repetitively.

Loosening dental work

The process of chewing gum is somewhat mechanical, and this could loosen dental work. Chewing gum is known to loosen bridges, crowns, and fillings.

It can cause tooth decay

Some of the pleasant gums have sugar additives. Often, these types of gums release sucrose when you chew them, which in turn helps the bad bacteria on your enamel to thrive. The bacteria then releases acids that erode the enamel, leading to tooth decay.

Can I replace brushing and flossing with chewing gum?

You cannot replace brushing your teeth and flossing with chew gum. No matter how much you chew gum, it is not as effective as brushing your teeth with toothpaste. Chewing gum fails to access some of the areas that your toothbrush can reach. Apart from that, chewing gum will not eradicate bacteria from your mouth.

Flossing helps remove food particles that stick between your teeth. And although chewing gum can also help with this, it is not as effective as flossing.

Can chewing gum strengthen my teeth?

Yes. There are chewing gum products that have an ingredient known as phosphopeptide-amorphous calcium phosphate, commonly referred to as Recaldent. This substance is believed to slow down tooth decay. However, it is not recommended for people who are allergic to milk.

What type of chewing gum is recommended for my teeth?

If you like to chew gum, then you should always go for the sugar-free ones. This is a healthier option that comes with a host of oral health benefits. Look out for the ADA sign to ascertain whether the chewing gum you are about to chew is good for your oral health.

Now that you know the pros and cons of chewing gum, you are in a better position to make an informed decision. Otherwise, sugar-free gum will allow you to indulge in the gum-chewing habit without damaging your teeth.

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Savina Clinic – Dental & Implantology Centres are friendly, state-of-the-art practices in Malta and Gozo dedicated to comprehensive quality dental care. Savina Dental is an innovative dental practice in Malta and prides itself on the high-quality customer service, low waiting room times, attention to detail and the advanced dental technology at their disposal.

Joseph Xuereb
Principal Dental Surgeon & Owner of Savina Dental Clinics, Dr Joseph Xuereb BChD (Hons), MFGDP(UK), MGDS RCS(Eng), FFGDP RCS(UK), FICD is a general dental practitioner with a special interest in Implant and Restorative Dentistry. Dr Joseph & the teams' full biographical information can be found here.