Is Chewing Gum Good or Bad for Your Teeth?
Posted: July 23, 2020
Last Modified: March 19, 2021
Chewing gum is a popular pastime in North America, and if trends are any indication, it’s going to be even more popular amongst Canadians in the next few years. In 2018 alone, Canadians racked up over $400 million USD in chewing gum sales. We chew gum to freshen our breath, to pass the time, or to try out a fun new flavour on our commute. But is chewing gum really a harmless habit?
There have been plenty of studies throughout the years on what gum does to your teeth, and whether chewing gum helps your teeth or hurts them. Some people have even said that chewing gum is as good as a visit to your dentist (we’re going to squash that one right now; there’s no replacement for dental cleaning). Today, we’re going to look at what gum does to your teeth, both good and bad, and how you can choose the best type of gum for your teeth.
A Quick History of Humans and Gum
Humans have chewed gum for over 9,000 years, and we’re likely not going to stop anytime soon. The earliest examples of gum that have been found were made from birch sap, which has antiseptic properties and was likely used as much for oral health as it was for breath freshening.
Gum, as we know it today, came about in the 1840s and since then, there have been endless variations on gum’s flavouring and purpose. Many people hold fond childhood memories of buying gum at the convenience store down the street or winning it as a prize in a game. Today, adults typically chew gum for the purpose of freshening breath (evident in the fact that the most popular gum flavour is mint). However, as fun as chewing gum is, it is possible to hurt your teeth by indulging.
When Gum Isn’t Good for Your Teeth
The guiding rule is that the gum you can find in a candy store usually isn’t good for your teeth. You probably already know that eating sugary foods increases the chances of bacteria and plaque, which can cause tooth decay. Now imagine chewing a super-sugary item for hours on end, and you’ve got a good idea of what sugary gum can do to your teeth. Avoid gum that has any sugar in it, even if it doesn’t seem like much.
Also, as with any habit, too much of anything can be damaging. Constant chewing can cause temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), resulting in chronic pain. It’s also not recommended to consume more than 30g of sorbitol (the equivalent of 24 pieces of sugar-free gum) per day since this can cause gastrointestinal distress.
When Gum Can Keep Teeth Healthy
If the gum you choose is sugar-free, you can usually chew with confidence. In fact, gum that’s sweetened with xylitol (another type of sugar alcohol) can actually help prevent the growth of cavity-causing bacteria. Chewing gum encourages your mouth to produce saliva, so if you have a piece of sugar-free gum after you finish a meal, you can better neutralize and rinse away any acids that might be left. Plus, this extra influx of saliva brings with it minerals that strengthen your tooth enamel.
Of course, chewing gum should never replace your regular tooth care routine. Brush and floss twice a day, and make sure you visit your friendly Barrie dentist at least once every six months for a check-up and dental cleaning.
To Chew or Not To Chew?
Ultimately, whether you chew gum or not is up to you. If you do, you should always opt for a sugar-free variety. Stick to no more than a few pieces a day, and if your jaw begins to hurt, stop immediately. When used responsibly, sugar-free chewing gum can be a safe and fun addition to your at-home dental care products.
If you’d like to make an appointment for a dental cleaning with our Barrie dental office, or if you have any questions about the care and health of your teeth, give us a call at (705) 721-1143. You can also contact us through online chat or by sending us a message.