Is Chewing Gum Good for the Teeth?
Studies have shown that chewing gum can have an indirect positive effect on your teeth. Gum stimulates production of saliva and increase salivary flow. Saliva is a natural buffering agent which washes the teeth and neutralizes some of the acid produced by bacteria. It is the acid which erodes enamel and eventually causes cavities. Also, some people do not produce sufficient saliva.
On the other hand, gum typically contains some type of sweetener. Brands of gum containing sugar can be harmful to your teeth if these types of gum are chewed too often or are removed from the mouth too soon. One should chew sugared gums at least 15 to 20 minutes, afterwhich the sugar is gone, but the saliva is sufficiently stimulated to rinse away some of the sugar residue.One artificial sweetener called Xylitol
proves to be quite beneficial. Xylitol, which inhibits bacterial growth, may directly prevent cavities. One study from Finland shows not only a reduction in decay in children who have chewed Xylitol gum, but extremely small lesions have actually been reversed.Our recommendation for cavity protection is to chew two pieces of gum three to five times daily for at least five minutes per chewing session. Any less time will decrease the effectiveness of the Xylitol.
One drawback to chewing gum is the potential for TMJ (temporomandibular joint) problems. Gum chewing may result in muscle fatigue and pain – especially if it is done frequently and/or for long periods of time. Research, however, has not really established the relationship between gum chewing and development of structural changes within the jaw joint, which could lead to fatigue and/or pain.
Gum chewing is an individual choice. If you chew gum, we strongly recommend a sugarless gum. It is a good idea to brush your teeth, or at least rinse your mouth with water after chewing gum. If you are susceptible to decay, gum containing Xylitol may have some benefit for you. If you experience muscle fatigue, jaw joint pain, or headaches from chewing gum, perhaps infrequent chewing or excluding gum altogether may be the best solution.