Kavanaugh Dentistry


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Sugar-free gum and tooth health?

Grandma told you chewing gum was a nasty habit, but current research indicates she might have been wrong. Although sugary gum can cause tooth decay, chewing sugar-free gum actually inhibits tooth decay, according to the American Dental Association.

The process of chewing increases the flow of saliva, which helps neutralize and wash away the acids produced when food is broken down by the battery in tooth plague. Acid can eat away the enamel on teeth, increasing the chance of decay. Saliva also contains calcium and phosphate, which can help strengthen tooth enamel.

Chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after eating can help prevent tooth decay.

The American Dental Association actually issues a special approval seal to manufacturers of sugarless gum who show verified laboratory and clinical studies documenting that the product is safe to oral tissues in humans.

Non-cavity causing sweeteners include:

  • aspartame
  •  xylitol
  • sorbitol
  • mannitol

Xylitol, a common ingredient in sugar-free gum, is a naturally occurring sweetener. Unlike sugar, it does not promote the growth of bacteria in the mouth, which leads to a healthier smile. 

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, casein phosphopeptide-amorphous phosphate, sometimes called Recaldent, is an additive in some sugarless gums that can make teeth stronger and less prone to decay.

Consumers should be aware of other ingredients in gum that might be detrimental to a healthy smile. According to a British Dental Journal study, some sugar-free gums contain acidic flavorings and preservatives. The substances, often found in fruit-flavored gum, can cause dental erosion, an irreversible mineral loss that structurally damages teeth.

A Tel Aviv University study found that heavy gum-chewers, especially children and adolescents, also may experience excessive strain and fatigue on the temporomandibular joints, which can trigger migraine symptoms.

We recommend moderation. Chewing sugar-free gum after meals can benefit oral health, especially if the product contains xylitol.

According to the International Chewing Gum Association, sugar-free chewing gum can:

  • contribute to the maintenance of tooth mineralization
  • neutralize acids
  • reduce oral dryness
  • reduce dental plaque

Chewing gum, however, is not a substitute for brushing and flossing and regular dental visits. Contact our team to learn how you can maintain a healthy smile for the rest of your life.