There are food and drink “good guys” and “bad guys.” Gum can be a “good guy” or a “bad guy” depending on the type of gum you are chewing. Some types may actually protect your teeth from decay and disease, while others contribute to the development of these destructive conditions.
What you eat and drink affects your oral health because the naturally occurring bacteria in your mouth flourish on the sugars in foods and beverages. If sugars aren’t removed with diligent, consistent brushing and flossing, a sticky acidic film forms. The acids in plaque carve a destructive path through your teeth.
After eroding the enamel, the bacteria and acid reach the underlying softer, yellow dentin. Eventually, the innermost part of the tooth is breached. You may develop a serious infection known as an abscess. The decay may be significant enough to warrant root canal therapy followed by a crown to rebuild the tooth’s structure. Root canal treatment can’t always save a tooth, so you may need an extraction followed by tooth replacement with a dental implant-supported crown or bridge.
The dentists at Big Smile Dental may recommend chewing gum to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. The act of chewing helps to stimulate the flow of saliva.
Considered a natural cleanser, saliva is preventive as it neutralizes the acids in plaque. It also helps limit the growth of bacteria and washes away food debris.
Some medications to treat chronic conditions and some medical conditions such as Sjögren’s syndrome can decrease saliva flow and cause patients to have dry mouth.
In turn, patients with these risk factors for dry mouth are also at greater risk of developing a number of oral health problems in addition to decay and gum disease:
- Sores inside the mouth
- Fungal infections
- Cracked lips
- Cracking and irritation outside of the mouth
To date, the American Dental Association has only recommended sugarless gum. The ADA reports chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following meals actually helps to strengthen the enamel, as saliva transports the calcium and phosphate beneficial to this protective coating.
While sugar-containing gum still helps to boost the production of cleansing saliva, the sugar makes bacteria thrive. Big Smile Dental recommends products sweetened with ingredients that do not cause cavities, such as sorbitol and mannitol. Keep in mind some common sweeteners, such as xylitol, have been known to cause digestive upset if chewed in large amounts.
Is chewing gum good or bad for the teeth? Gum has the power to be both “good” and “bad” for your teeth. Sugarless products when combined with proper home care, and exams and cleanings as recommended by the dentists at Big Smile Dental have many tooth-friendly characteristics, stimulating cleansing saliva, strengthening enamel, and fighting decay. Call 773-772-8400 to schedule an appointment and discuss any concerns you may have about dry mouth.