The bane of schoolteachers, janitors, and sidewalk pedestrians everywhere, chewing gum has gotten stuck with a bad reputation. It only takes one ill-placed step or unfortunate brush-up against the underside of a gum riddled desk to forever change a person’s view of the sticky substance. Discarded chewing gum became such a public nuisance in Singapore that the nation’s government enacted a law in the early 90s that outlawed the import and sale of gum in the entire country. Mickey got so tired of cutting pieces from Pluto’s fur that Disneyland decided to stop selling gum at all of their theme parks. Similar bands have since followed at such family friendly destinations as Sea World, Universal Studios, and Busch Gardens.
Despite the bubalicious backlash, gum still retains one big fan, your dentist. When chewed after meals, gum can play an important role in helping to keep your teeth and gums healthy and strong. Of course not all types of gum work to help keep your teeth clean, and savvy shoppers need to look for the American Dental Association’s seal of approval to find a healthy alternative to the sugary treats located in most checkout lines.
How Chewing Gum Helps Your Teeth
After you eat, the sticky bacteria in your mouth, known as plaque, begins producing an acid that eats away at your teeth’s enamel. Over enough time, this acid can break down tooth enamel, which creates the conditions needed for tooth decay. Since these plaque acids can attack you teeth for at least 20 minutes after eating, forgetting to brush immediately after a meal can present big problems for the health of your teeth and gums.
Fortunately, chewing gum after a meal presents a suitable alternative if you don’t have an opportunity to brush. The physical act of chewing gum increases the flow of saliva in your mouth. Saliva works to wash away harmful plaque acids before they can damage your teeth’s enamel. Increase saliva flow also creates more calcium and phosphates in the mouth, which can strengthen tooth enamel. While chewing gum doesn’t replace the need to brush and floss regularly, it can offer your teeth some protection against the harmful effects of tooth decay.
What Brands to Buy
The majority of gums on the market are targeted towards young children, and those with a hankering for something sweet. Unfortunately, artificially sweetened gum doesn’t help reduce the amount of harmful plaque acids in your mouth; it actually helps to create more. Since sugar is the primary fuel that allows plaque to produce these harmful acids, eating a piece of sweetened gum would be like trying to brush your teeth with a chocolate bar.
Sugarless gums that feature the ADA Seal contain non-cavity causing sweeteners, such as sorbitol, mannitol, and aspartame. To earn the ADA Seal, a manufacturer must provide scientific evidence that the product effectively reduces plaque acids, promotes the demineralization of tooth enamel, or helps to reduce cavities or gingivitis. Any gum that earns the ADA Seal has also met the organization’s standards of safety and effectiveness, and is clinically proven to be safe on oral tissues.
If you have any questions about the benefits of chewing sugar free gum after meals, make sure to mention them during your next appointment with Dr. Beadnell. To find obtain a full list of ADA approved gums, visit the organizations website at ADA.org.