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Friday, June 24, 2011

The Oral Health Benefits of Chewing Sugar-free Gum!!

People around the world chew gum for many reasons. The results of scientific research demonstrate chewing gum’s positive contributions from the area of oral health and teeth specifically. Chewing gum stimulates one of the most powerful defense mechanisms from the body saliva. The partnership between chewing gum and saliva stimulation creates a powerful force that contributes to good dental health from the following areas.

Oral Benefits

  • Alleviates dry mouth discomfort
  • Freshens breath
  • Neutralizes acids formed from the mouth by bacteria
  • Remineralizes enamel to strengthen teeth
  • Cleans the mouth of food debris
  • Whitens teeth by reducing stains and preventing stains from accumulating
  • Reduces plaque
  • Helps reduce cavities
  • Reduces gingivitis to maintain healthy gums
  • Kills the germs that cause bad breath

Future Benefits "Healthy Mouth = Healthy Body"

New research suggests that inflammation from the body could be a factor associated using disease like heart disease and diabetes. This inflammation may be related to the bacteria you find from the mouth. Research is on the horizon to explore the role chewing gum might play from reducing inflammation causing bacteria from the mouth and its contribution to overall health of the body.

Chewing Gum Action

Saliva is the most important component of oral health. Water comprises 99% of saliva and the remaining components are macromolecules, formed within the acinar cells and secreted into the mouth. Saliva alone is a powerful protector of the oral cavity. And, chewing gum is an efficient and pleasant way to increase saliva without drugs. Increasing saliva from the mouth is accomplished by the gustivatory action of gum and the mechanical action of chewing. Together these forces stimulate the salivary glands to increase the flow rate by about 10 times the resting state during the first few minutes of chewing and keep it significantly elevated for as long as you chew. Stimulated saliva is capable of maintaining a healthy mouth, correcting a potentially harmful environment using its high concentration of buffers, minerals and antibacterial components.

The chewing of gum is said to be the world’s most common habit, with about 100,000 tons of it being consumed every year. Most of us are familiar with the negative aspects of chewing gum, when we find it on chairs, stuck under desks or contaminating pavements and therefore our shoes. However, there are also many benefits to chewing gum.

Studies have shown that chewing gum can have an indirect, positive effect on dental hygiene, teeth health. Chewing gum after meals helps to stimulate the production of saliva and overall salivary flow. Saliva helps to wash away and neutralize the acid produced by bacteria in plaque. This acid is responsible for dental decay and bad breath. Chewing gum can also help relieve pressure in your ears and sinuses by encouraging jaw movement.

The popular perception is that chewing gum is bad for the teeth. However, many dentists (one source says 90%!) believe that chewing sugarless gum after meals actually has health benefits!

The benefits arise from the fact that tooth decay occurs when essential minerals are dissolved from the tooth enamel by acids produced by the bacteria in plaque. Teeth are at their most vulnerable directly after meals and snacks, when plaque acid levels can rise dramatically.

However, chewing gum removes these acids within minutes, thus slowing down the process of tooth decay.

As I mentioned above, One reason for this is that chewing can stimulate saliva production by up to ten-fold, thus flushing out oral bacteria. Furthermore, saliva contains hydrogen carbonate ions, a mild alkali, which serves to neutralize plaque acids. For this reason, hydrogen carbonate is used in some toothpastes.

Saliva also contains minerals such as calcium, phosphate and fluoride .all components of tooth enamel – which can be assimilated and thus help to repair early decay and also strengthen tooth enamel.

On the other hand, chewing gum typically contains a sweetener of some type. Chewing gum that contains sugar, for example, can be harmful to your teeth. Sugar fuels the acid-producing bacteria in your mouth. 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.

In fact, studies have shown that if a person chews gum containing sugar, it should be chewed for at least 15 to 20 minutes. After this time, the sugar is gone, but the saliva is sufficiently stimulated to rinse away some of the sugar residue.

There are, however, a number of sweeteners that help prevent cavities and reduce the acid production in your mouth. Xylitol, a natural sweetener found in many fruits and vegetables, tastes and looks like sugar but without the negative side effects. Chewing gum that contains high levels of xylitol fights cavities and dental decay by creating an unwelcome environment for bacteria. Xylitol is one of bacteria’s natural enemies-in a xylitol-rich environment, bacteria lose their ability to stick to teeth and are therefore unable to colonize and turn into plaque.

Clinical studies have shown reductions in tooth decay by up to 80% in people who consistently use products sweetened with 100% Xylitol.

Gum chewing is an individual choice. If you chew gum, I 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.

  1. This article was previously published for Dentistry magazine from the UK.
  2. Dental Health Magazine

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