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The Truth About Chewing Gum: Is It Good Or Bad For Your Teeth?

The Truth About Chewing Gum: Is It Good Or Bad For Your Teeth?

Chewing gum is a staple in purses and pockets around the world. But when it comes to oral health, is gum a friend or foe? Read on to learn more about chewing gum and its impact on your teeth.

The Sticky Debate

 Chewing gum has been a subject of much debate among dental professionals. Some say it’s good for your teeth, while others warn of potential pitfalls. So, what’s the real deal? The answer is more complex than you might think – it largely depends on the type of gum you’re chewing and your dental health.

The Good

Many sugar-free chewing gums on the market today are sweetened with xylitol, a natural sugar alcohol. Xylitol offers a significant advantage over traditional sugar because it doesn’t serve as a food source for the bacteria in your mouth responsible for tooth decay and cavities.

Chewing sugar-free gum stimulates saliva production, the mouth’s natural way of neutralising acid and washing away food particles and debris that can contribute to plaque buildup. This increased saliva flow can be particularly beneficial after meals, aiding in maintaining a clean and healthy oral environment.

The American Dental Association (ADA) even awards its Seal of Acceptance to certain sugar-free gums, indicating they have been scientifically proven to ensure they effectively prevent cavities, reduce plaque, and strengthen enamel.

The Bad

While the benefits of sugar-free gum for dental health are well-documented, the same positive attributes cannot be extended to chewing gums that contain sugar.

When you chew gum containing sugar, you allow harmful bacteria to feast in your mouth They thrive on sugar as their primary energy source to produce acids as a byproduct. These acids are particularly detrimental to dental health because they can erode enamel. Once enamel is compromised, your teeth become much more susceptible to weakening and decay.

The acid production doesn’t stop immediately after you finish chewing the gum. Acids can continue to affect your teeth for up to 20 minutes after consuming sugar.

Repetitive exposure to sugary substances can worsen the problem, leading to a cycle of decay that can be hard to break. Each time sugary gum is chewed, it provides another opportunity for bacteria to produce damaging acids that increase the risk of dental issues.

Potential Jaw Issues

Chewing gum too much, whether it’s sugar-free or not, can overwork your jaw muscles and potentially cause issues such as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD). TMJD is a condition affecting the temporomandibular joints, which are the hinges connecting your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull, located in front of each ear. These joints enable you to move your jaw up and down and side to side, allowing for actions such as talking, chewing, and yawning.

Symptoms of TMJD can include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the jaw, especially at the area of the joint.
  • Aching pain in and around your ear.
  • Difficulty chewing or discomfort while chewing.
  • Aching facial pain.
  • Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth.
  • Clicking, popping, or grating sounds in the jaw joint when opening or closing the mouth, which may or may not be accompanied by pain.

Special Considerations

If you have braces, dental fillings, or other orthodontic appliances, chewing gum, especially the stickier varieties, might not be the best idea. Gum can get stuck in braces and pull at fillings, potentially leading to dental visits for repairs.

The Role of Gum in Oral Hygiene

It’s important to note that sugar-free gum does not replace proper dental hygiene habits. The best way to ensure oral health is brushing teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, and getting regular dental check-ups.

Making the Right Choice

If you enjoy chewing gum and want to make it a part of your dental care regimen, opt for sugar-free varieties. Remember to chew in moderation to avoid jaw strain and consider your unique oral health needs, especially if you have dental appliances.

Conclusion

Sugar-free gum, especially those containing xylitol, can be great for maintaining dental health, stimulating saliva production, and reducing harmful bacteria in your mouth. However, sugary gums are best avoided, as they can contribute to tooth decay and cavities.

As with many things in life, moderation is key. Enjoy your gum-chewing habit, but make sure it’s part of a balanced approach to oral health. And remember, nothing replaces the tried-and-true practices of brushing, flossing, and regular dental check-ups.

At Affinity Dental, we are dedicated to making dental care accessible and affordable for you and your family. When you choose one of our dental plans, you gain access to a vast network of over 2,000 skilled and professional dentists. Our benefits include mouth examinations, scale and polish, intraoral radiographs, infection control, and more. Contact Affinity Dental for helpful advice on which dental plan is best suited to you and your family, and visit a network Dentist for more on what how to ensure your oral health.

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