According to the American Dental Association (ADA), chewing gum has been around since ancient times, when northern Europeans used to chew a gum-like substance derived from birch bark tar! The ancient Greeks chewed resin from the bark of the mastic tree. American Indians and then New England settlers chomped on resin from a spruce tree. Today, the gum we chew is made of a mix of synthetic materials, and is no doubt a lot tastier than the tree resin chewed centuries ago. In an array of yummy flavors from sweet mint to piña colada to cinnamon, it couldn’t possibly be good for your teeth–or could it?
Any time you chew, you prompt your mouth to produce more saliva. Saliva is primarily water, but also includes some crucial electrolytes, enzymes, and antibacterial elements. That saliva flow serves to rinse out your mouth and neutralize some of the plaque acids that hang around in there. Those acids are produced when bacteria break down food in the mouth. If left alone, plaque and acids go on to cause enamel erosion and tooth decay. Because acidic foods and drinks temporarily soften your enamel, it is recommended you wait at least 30-60 minutes after a meal before brushing your teeth; instead, chew sugar-free chewing gum for 20 minutes after each meal in order to maximize its effectiveness and protection against enamel damage!
Not all chewing gum is created equal. A sugary chewing gum is just as bad as candy, especially due to its sticky texture, and will increase your risk for tooth decay. Stick with chewing only the sugar-free variety of gum! When in doubt, look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance, which a number of brands have earned for their scientifically proven safety and effectiveness.
Chewing sugar-free gum can certainly contribute to a healthy mouth, and it’s a fantastic alternative to sugary treats like candy, chips, and soda. However, chewing gum is no substitute for daily brushing and flossing. Remember to drink plenty of water, brush twice a day for two minutes each time, floss at least once daily, and keep up your biannual dental cleanings and checkups here at Heritage Dental. Additionally, we do not recommend chewing gum, even sugar-free gum, if it causes your jaw to hurt, click, or pop. At your next appointment, notify our expert team if you are experiencing any jaw pain or dysfunction. Schedule a checkup today!