Looking after our oral health on the go can sometimes be difficult. Enjoying in that caramel latte on the way to work, rushing lunch before a meeting or a chocolatey mid-afternoon snack to get you through to dinner time can have an impact on our teeth.
Yes, we all may brush our teeth for two minutes twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. But between the first and last brush, our teeth can come under a constant attack if we don’t give them time to recover. Our teeth are at risk of acid attack after we eat and drink anything. Especially if what we consume has sugar in it. This acid is produced by plaque bacteria and the sugars in our food and drink. This will slowly dissolve the enamel and dentine of the tooth leading to cavities forming.
But new evidence has shown that incorporating sugar-free gum into our on-the-go lifestyles can benefit our oral health. Although not a replacement for brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, chewing after eating or drinking can help our teeth recover quicker and keep our mouths healthy.
So what is Sugar-Free Gum?
Sugar-free gum does not have any sugar in it. The taste is added using sweeteners, and therefore the gum does not cause tooth decay. The gum releases its flavors over a period of time, just like ordinary gum.
Sugar-free gum as part of your oral health routine
The process of chewing sugar-free gum helps the mouth to produce more saliva – the mouth’s natural defense against acid. It usually takes our saliva about an hour to replace the minerals that the enamel has lost after eating. But chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after eating or drinking increases the flow of saliva, and helps replace the minerals more quickly.
This diagram shows how our tooth enamel is at risk from acid attack after food and drink, and how long it takes the acid level in the mouth to return to the safe zone. pH is the measure of acidity, with levels below 5.5 being acid enough to soften tooth enamel. Chewing sugar-free gum after eating can quickly lower the amount of time that acid attacks the teeth.
Sugar-free gum could be an easy and effective addition to our families’ oral health routines. We recommend that brushing for two minutes twice a day is still the best way to keep teeth clean and healthy. But chewing sugar-free gum during the day can be effective in neutralizing harmful plaque acids and reducing the risk of decay.
Some benefits of Sugar-free gum:
- Prevent Cavities – Sugarless gum refreshes your breath on the go, but it can also be used as an alternative way to fend off cavities. It works by boosting the flow of saliva in your mouth, which washes away food and neutralizes acids. The saliva also contains additional calcium and phosphate to support the strengthening of enamel. Sugar-gum also increases saliva flow. But the sugar contained in them is used by plaque bacteria to produce acidic by-products. Stick with a sugar-free version for your best bet in countering cavities with gum.
- Strengthen Enamel – Fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash are the top products to strengthen teeth. Did you know that sugarless gum has a similar effect? When you chew a sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol, the acids left behind on your teeth from foods and drinks will reduce. The gum also promotes healthy teeth and prevents enamel erosion by supplying minerals to your teeth. With stronger enamel, your teeth have a better chance of decay and cavities.
- Reduce Tooth Sensitivity – Another major plus for sugar-free gum is that it can reduce tooth sensitivity caused by in-office teeth whitening. According to a study published in the British Dental Journal, patients who chewed sugarless gum after having their teeth whitened had significantly less tooth sensitivity compared to study participants who did not chew gum. Researchers pinpointed the increase in saliva flow from the act of chewing as a likely cause of this benefit.