I get asked quite often whether gum chewing is good for your mouth. Real simple answer… Yes and Yes! Chewing gum has been proven over and over to have many benefits for your oral health. Here are 6 of the major ways that gum helps keep your mouth healthy!
#1 Chewing gum increases your saliva flow. The biggest benefit to come of this is an increased buffering capacity of your mouth. What this means is that your mouth can bring it’s pH back to a normal level much more quickly after eating or drinking something acidic. This is especially important if you drink soda, fruit juice, or sports drinks on a regular basis as all of these tend to be quite acidic.
#2 Chewing gum reduces cavities. Most of this is a result of the increased saliva flow and buffering capacity that we talked about before. There are huge decreases in cavity development with consistent chewing of gum, especially after meals.
#3 Chewing gum reduces plaque on your teeth. This is a result of the increased saliva flow as well as the mechanical action of the gum on your teeth. It’s estimated that people only clean 35-40% of the plaque off their teeth when brushing. Gum can definitely help improve this for you. Reduced plaque will help keep your gums healthy.
#4 Chewing gum reduces bad breath. This effect comes from the increased saliva flow as well as the flavorings in the chewing gum. This effect tends to be temporary as researchers found that the odor returned to regular levels within three hours of stopping chewing the gum.
#5 Chewing gum with baking soda as an ingredient can reduce stains. Arm and Hammer makes a couple of gum products containing this. The effect can be seen after about 4 weeks of chewing with it.
#6 Chewing gum helps with dry mouth. As long as your salivary glands haven’t been destroyed by radiation or other rare medical conditions, chewing gum with increase your saliva flow helping your mouth feel dry. People with dry mouth tend to develop cavities much more quickly so chewing gum can be an easy solution to significantly reduce that risk.
So obviously you should chew gum right? Now which one to pick?
Your best option is a xylitol based gum. In addition to all the benefits listed above, xylitol also has an anti-cavity effect. This effect of xylitol has been shown to last up to several weeks after chewing a xylitol based gum!
The next best option is a sorbitol based gum. Researchers have done several studies on the effects of sorbitol based gums. One study followed participants for three years. One group of people chewed gum after each meal and the other group didn’t. At the end of the three years, the gum chewing group developed significantly less cavities than the control group.
I’d avoid using a sugar based gum on a routine basis. While the act of chewing the gum seems to cancel out the sugar content, you don’t get the same benefits as you get with xylitol or sorbitol based gums.