You have probably heard your dentist tell you many times to avoid eating candy and gum, so you may be surprised to know that chewing sugar-free gum can actually be beneficial. Instead of causing cavities the way sugar-filled gum does, sugar-free gum actually aids in the prevention of cavity formation. Here’s what you need to know:
What are the risks of chewing gum?
Before we discuss the benefits of chewing sugar-free gum, it’s important to talk about some of the risks involved with chewing sugary gum. Gum that contains sugar can lead to serious oral health problems. The sugar coats your teeth and gradually damages the enamel, potentially leading to tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease. Although this is not the case with sugar-free gum, excessive gum chewing of any kind of gum can increase the risk of developing temporomandibular disorder (TMD), irritable bowel syndrome, or tension headaches. Even when chewing sugar-free gum, it’s a good idea to keep gum chewing limited to the recommended 20 minutes or less at a time.
What is sugar-free gum?
Unlike regular gum, which is sweetened with sugar, sugar-free gum uses artificial sugar or sugar alcohols such as aspartame, sucralose, stevia, and xylitol. When you chew sugary gum, the sugar dissolves into your saliva and gets absorbed by existing plaque, allowing the bacteria within to reproduce, multiply, and eventually cause cavities. Sugar substitutes, on the other hand, not only contain about half the calories of regular sugar, but they are also non cariogenic, which means they are metabolized slowly or not at all by cavity-causing plaque bacteria.
How does sugar-free gum benefit oral health?
Chewing sugar-free gum after meals is a great addition to your daily oral health routine. The act of chewing stimulates ten times the normal rate of saliva flow, helping to rinse away food particles that would otherwise get stuck and potentially lead to plaque and cavities. Saliva flow also helps neutralize the acids that are released by food and existing plaque, which is harmful to the enamel on your teeth.
Additionally, sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol in particular has the added benefit of inhibiting the growth of oral bacteria that causes cavities. Xylitol blocks the bacteria’s ability to adhere to the tooth surface. Chewing xylitol-sweetened gum over a long period of time actually changes the bacteria in your mouth so fewer types can survive on the enamel.
Do dentists recommend chewing sugar-free gum?
Many sugar-free gums on the market bear a seal of approval from the American Dental Association (ADA), which means the product meets the ADA’s criteria for effectiveness and safety. Chewing sugar-free gum for about 20 minutes after you eat or drink can produce many oral health benefits, but it’s important to note that chewing sugar-free gum is not a substitute for daily brushing and flossing, which are still crucial for long-term oral health.
Can chewing sugar-free gum prevent a dental visit?
Visiting a dentist twice a year for an exam and professional cleaning is still important as part of your regular oral health routine. However, chewing sugar-free gum can help prevent more frequent visits that are necessary to fill cavities or treat gum disease. By maintaining a good oral health routine that includes daily brushing and flossing, along with chewing sugar-free gum after meals, you will likely only have to see the dentist twice a year for a checkup, saving you time and money in the long run.
Advanced dental care at San Diego Periodontics & Implant Dentistry
If you want to introduce sugar-free gum into your daily oral health routine but you would like to address existing dental problems first, San Diego Periodontics & Implant Dentistry can help. We offer a wide range of periodontal services and gum disease treatments, and our compassionate staff is committed to ensuring your comfort during procedures. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call us at (619) 543-0905.