Chewing gum’s impact

In the presence of xylitol bacteria lose the ability to adhere to the tooth

Chewing Gum Impact

Chewing Gum Impact

Some 175.21 million Americans used chewing gum in 2016, according to US Census Data and the Simmons National Consumer Survey—and the gum one chooses could make all the difference in having fewer or more cavities, according to the British Dental Journal.

Sugar-Free Deception

Chewing gum with sugar increase chances of developing caries—that’s established, says the report. The biggest national selling brand, chewed by 25.22 million Americans, uses synthetic sweeteners with non-sugar sorbitol to overcome this stigma, but it also contains artificial colors and preservatives, making it a poor choice. And ingredients with names like aspartame, BHT and titanium dioxide should send a warning shiver up the spine of any semi-aware, healthy shopper that these foreign sounding names are not so desirable in the human body.

Organic Deception

But some of the smoothest deceptions are occurring now among organic chewing gums. Chewing gum products sold via health food retailers can sometimes be deceptive in their presentation in the sense that whenever one sees the US Department of Agriculture organic or “non-GMO verified” certifications, the tendency is to see an inherently healthy product.

A few companies, whose gums are sold through natural health channels, have cleaned up their products from artificial chemicals, which is laudable. Organic cane sugar certainly is a less toxic alternative to heavily chemically processed table or white sugar, which also contains pesticide residues.

Yet although organic cane sugar contains amino acids, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants it still contains sucrose, fructose and glucose, three of the major culprits in poor dental health. So this is not the gum to chew regularly for dental health.

Read: New Sugar Protects Teeth

Sugar Substitutes

In the Journal of Applied Oral Science researchers used 9 English and 2 Portuguese databases and found 9 acceptable clinical trials that showed good evidence of the anti-cariogenic effects of chewing sorbitol, xylitol or sorbitol/ xylitol gum.

“This effect can be ascribed to saliva stimulation through the chewing process, particularly when gum is used immediately after meals; the lack of sucrose and the inability of bacteria to metabolize polyols into acids. The evidence suggests that sugar-free chewing gum has a caries-reducing effect.”

Both the act of chewing and the flavor stimulate the normal rate of saliva flow. Not only does the increased saliva flow neutralize the acids in the mouth, it also washes away food particles, helping to keep teeth clean.

Starves Bad Bacteria

“Sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol has the added benefit of inhibiting the growth of Streptococcus mutans, one of the oral bacteria that cause cavities,” says Delta Dental, a health insurance carrier. “In the presence of xylitol, the bacteria lose the ability to adhere to the tooth, stunting the cavity-causing process. With xylitol use over a period of time, the types of bacteria in the mouth change and fewer decay-causing bacteria survive on tooth surfaces.”

To Chew Or Not To Chew

Clinical evidence supports a cavity-reducing effect for sugar-free products. Chewing gum when tooth brushing and flossing are not possible can be a strategic health choice but make it sugar and toxic chemical-free. According to Delta Dental, “There’s even better news when it comes to chewing sugar-free gum that is sweetened with xylitol.”

Edgar WM. Sugar substitutes, chewing gum and dental caries--a review. Br Dent J. 1998 Jan 10;184(1):29-32. Mickenautsch S, Leal SC, Yengopal V, Bezerra AC, Cruvinel V. Sugar-free chewing gum and dental caries: a systematic review. J Appl Oral Sci. 2007 Apr;15(2):83-8.
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