Is chewing gum good for you? There are several factors to consider if you’ve wondered whether you were helping or hurting your oral health by indulging in that sweet burst of flavor. The good news is gum-chewing can provide positive health benefits depending on the type of sweetener used, when you chew it and how much you chew.
Sugared Gum or Sugar-Free Gum?
There is a positive link between chewing gum and dental health, as long as the gum you chew does not have sugar. As a general rule, sugar is not good for your teeth because it can cause cavities and tooth decay. Bacteria uses sugar to produce acids that can weaken tooth enamel. Regular gums not only contain sugar, but also preservatives and artificial flavoring that also can contribute to tooth decay.
There are benefits of chewing gum if it doesn’t have sugar. Sugar-free gum can improve oral hygiene and health by neutralizing acid produced in the mouth during the breakdown of food. This helps prevent tooth decay. Sugar-free gum also can inhibit the development of plaque and aid digestion. Another alternative to sugared gum is one sweetened with xylitol, a sugar alcohol. Xylitol gum benefits include possible prevention of tooth decay by reducing bad bacteria in the mouth.
Other Health Benefits of Chewing Gum
Aside from boosting oral health, chewing gum can:
- Increase focus — Chewing gum can improving alertness by increasing blood flow to the brain.
- Boost memory — By increasing focus and improving alertness, gum-chewing may help your brain better retain information.
- Improve digestion — The increased saliva that results when you chew gum promotes more swallowing, which may aid digestion.
- Reduce stress — The rhythmic motion of chewing gum can reduce stress because it releases nervous energy.
- Weight management — Chewing gum also can help you manage your weight because the physical act of chewing helps suppress food cravings. This can prevent overeating or eating out of boredom.
If you are unsure which kinds of gum will promote good oral health, look for sugar-free gums that have been recommended by the American Dental Association for their recognized benefits. Keep an eye out for the ADA’s Seal of Approval on gum packaging when choosing which one to buy.
Adverse Effects of Gum Chewing to Keep in Mind
Overall, chewing gum can offer many positive health benefits. However, too much gum-chewing can lead to problems. Excessive chewing can cause jaw pain and headaches. Chewing too much sugar-free gum can cause digestive distress, as xylitol and other sugar alcohols can have a laxative effect.
While chewing sugar-free gum can be beneficial, it should not replace regular dental hygiene or daily brushing and flossing. If you have further questions about chewing gum and dental health, contact our office to schedule an appointment with one of our dental health professionals.