When it comes to preventing dental decay it’s now pretty much taken for granted that the vast majority of people have a firm grasp of the basics – avoid sugary foods or those high in acid, clean your teeth twice a day and make regular visits to your dentist to have your teeth checked and examined. What people might not realise, however, is that something as simple as chewing on sugar free gum can also prove beneficial for the health of your teeth and gums, helping to keep the acid levels in your mouth on the safe side of too high.
How Chewing Gum Protects Your Teeth It’s all about the amount of saliva in your mouth. Saliva is often called ‘nature’s mouthwash’ by dentists and with very good reason. Dental decay is caused when acids present in your mouth attack the enamel of your teeth. These acids are caused by the bacteria present in your mouth which feeds on the food you eat, and in particular on foods high in sugars and carbohydrates. Saliva acts as a natural counterbalance to this acid, and also helps to wash away any food particles which may still be clinging to your teeth. For this reason, medications or conditions which cause dry mouth can be extremely damaging to patients’ teeth, and anything which stimulates the production of saliva will help to fight this. Your mouth produces saliva when you eat, so chewing gum is a highly convenient way of prompting this saliva production without having to take on board the extra calories which would be involved in actually eating. Of course, when it comes to shifting the acid which causes decay, and the food which clings to your teeth, there is nothing which beats a thorough cleaning, flossing and rinsing regime, but chewing on gum is an excellent addition to this oral hygiene programme and one which can be utilised even when you’re out and about on the move.
More Saliva: The act of chewing gum will produce more saliva and this will adjust what is known as the pH level of the mouth, which is a way of measuring the amount of acid present. Studies have shown that children who chew sugar free gum on a regular basis suffer only half the number of cavities as those who do not chew gum. Sugar Free: It’s vital, however, to ensure that the gum being chewed is sugar free. Select a gum which contains sugar and all of the good work done by the saliva will be undone. Gum which is free from sugar usually contains a substitute such as Xylitol or Sorbitol, and these are substances which, as well as changing the flavour of the gum, help to fight bacteria present in the mouth. Recommendation: The recommendation is that patients stick to gum which contains Xylitol, as this will help to fight cavities through the production of saliva whilst also combatting bacteria in its’ own right.