Chewing gum in one form or another is a very old pastime. Mastiche, or the sap from a mastic tree, was chewed by ancient Greeks. Across the globe, the Mayans were enjoying the sap from the sapodilla tree. In New England, Native Americans chose to chew the sap of a spruce tree. This practice was adopted by the European settlers in the area. Modern people have moved away from chewing sap with the help of advanced technology.
Today’s gum products are made of a combination of synthetic resins, waxes, and elastomers (a natural latex material used to provide elasticity). Chewing gum is usually placed in the same category as candy. However, The American Dental Association (ADA) recognizes this sticky confection as more of a valuable tool for the prevention of tooth decay.
The chewing process encourages an increase in saliva production. When you chew gum after finishing a meal, the extra saliva works to neutralize acids and lift them away. Such acids are formed when food is broken down by plaque bacteria on your teeth. In time, this corrosive substance will destroy precious tooth enamel, making way for decay and disease. When more
saliva is present, the flow has the capacity to carry larger amounts of enamel strengthening
calcium and phosphate.
Research shows that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after each meal will significantly reduce the risk of tooth decay. Nowadays, chewing gum comes in numerous varieties, and some offer additional therapeutic properties. For example, some provide active agents that help re-mineralize teeth while managing the decay. Other choices are more geared toward plaque reduction, tartar control, and the prevention of gingivitis.
Gum chewing does not replace the need for regular brushing and flossing. Brushing with fluoride toothpaste and flossing at least twice a day are still the best way to keep your teeth and mouth healthy. Chewing sugarless gum is a good complement, especially when you do not have access to a toothbrush and toothpaste.
The ADA only grants their seal of approval to sugar-free gums. A company needs to earn this industry recognition by meeting set efficacy standards. Chewing gum sweetened with mannitol, sorbitol or aspartame is acceptable because these substances are not cavity causing. The brand’s product needs to be proven to increase saliva to strengthen teeth and reduce plaque.
When it comes time to decide which sugarless chewing gum will benefit you the most, look for the ADA seal. You can rest assured that the brand is trustworthy because they have successfully met the required criteria for efficacy and safety.
Along with the great oral health benefits, gum chewing can work as a diet aid. Sugarless gum only has about five or 10 calories per piece. Regular chewing can help to reduce food cravings and binge eating. Another perk, the increase in saliva flow automatically produces frequent swallowing. This can positively affect intestinal motility and hamper acid reflux.