At Hartwell Dentistry this week, we are discussing whether chewing gum is good or bad for you. We have seen some of our patient’s return again and again to have treatment due to the negative effects of chewing the wrong gum. So we thought we should share this with all of you.
Chewing gum is a great way to improve our saliva production. In the motion of chewing gum it activates our chewing muscles, which produces more saliva. Saliva plays an important role for our mouths in providing protection and lubrication to our tissues, dilutes and cleans away food, helps to neutralise acids that eating produces and maintains the durability of the enamel structure.
While chewing gum can be a great way to increase saliva and to aid in removing debris, it is important to use the right kind of gum.
Lots of gums contain sugar, and if you constantly expose your teeth to sugar the benefits from the increased saliva are lost. Constant sugar in our mouth drops the pH level making the environment more acidic, when this occurs it takes our saliva a longer time to neutralise the pH balance to its normal healthy state. The problem with the mouth being in an acidic state for longer period of time is, the enamel starts to demineralise (weaken) increasing the likelihood of getting decay.
At Hartwell Dentistry we have recently experienced a patient that chewed a gum frequently that contained sugar. This particular chewing gum has a high amount of sugar and the patient chewed several pieces a day, for long periods of time, therefore increasing sugar/acid exposure time. While looking visually in the patient’s mouth the teeth appeared healthy, until we took some radiographic images of between the teeth. Due to the sugar in the chewing gum and the frequency of sugar exposure, the patient ended up with numerous spots of decay between the teeth.
If you are going to chew gum, rules to stick by are;
- Always make sure it is sugar free (usually the “Extra” brand is the best – they will have a symbol of a tooth on the package to show sugar free)
- Be wary as some state they are sugar free, however the flavourings include acids, which can again cause the pH to drop. So steer clear of the flavours such as lemon/lime. Usually mint is the better option.
So next to you reach for a packet of gum, make sure it is the best option for your teeth. If you don’t, your $2 packet of gum may end in a very expensive trip to the dentist.