You’ve heard that 4 out of 5 dentists surveyed recommend a certain brand of gum to their patients who chew gum. (If you can fill in the brand name, we know how old you are). Its no wonder that companies selling gum connect it to the teeth. But does chewing gum really help oral health on any level? Here’s the low down:
It all starts with spit. Saliva plays a huge role in good oral health. When healthy, it containes proteins, glycoproteins, mucins, calcium, phosphates and minerals. It naturally serves to inhibit plaque from attaching to the teeth.
Typically, when we eat, pH in our mouth drops below 5.5. A this level, food can become trapped in the biofilm on the tooth’s surface. When salivary glands are stimulated, pH of the saliva changes from a resting pH of 6.75 to about 7.8. This shift in pH helps to remineralize the teeth, providing some protection from cavities.
However, if there is an imbalance in the oral system, and the saliva chemistry is off, tooth structure is left unprotected, plaque can more easily attach itself to the surface of the tooth, and cavities can develop more easily.
So what can you do? There are a variety of options to address the problem. Fluoride is used regularly to help fortify the teeth. Nutraceutical phenols, such as herbal lollipops have been shown to slow biofilm formation. Probiotic dental therapy helps to replenish healthy bacteria in the mouth. Baking soda is another effective antibacterial mechanism that helps neutralize pH. Xylitol, a alcohol sugar that cannot be metabolized into acid, is another tool. Gum and hard candy containing xylitol, when consumed after each meal, has been shown to reduce the incidence of cavity development for children older than 5. (Inside Dentistry, April 2012, p. 88 – 95)
So yes, chewing a sugar free gum after a meal, especially one containing xylitol, can help to promote healthy pH levels in the mouth. Can you swap your morning brushing for a minty fresh stick of gum? Enjoy your gum, but Definitely don’t skip the toothbrush.