According to a new study published in the American Journal of Dentistry, if current consumers of sugar-free chewing gum increase their consumption by just one piece per day, $4.1 billion could be saved worldwide on dental expenditures from treating tooth decay each year, according to the Institute of Empirical Health Economics (IEHE). These savings would include $2.07 billion in the United States, $1.1 billion in Europe, and $149 million in China.
Chewing Gum Increases Saliva Flow
Chewing increases salivary flow, which helps remove leftover food debris while neutralizing and washing away the acids that are produced when food is broken down by the bacteria in plaque on teeth. This acid can break down tooth enamel, creating conditions for decay. Also, the increased saliva provides more calcium and phosphate to help strengthen the enamel.
ADA Recommendations for Chewing Gum
The American Dental Association, (ADA) recommends chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after meals, since it's been proven to reduce plaque, promote tooth enamel, reduce cavities, and reduce gingivitis. Just make sure your gum is sugarless, as sugar-containing gums can actually add to acid build-up. Look for gums with xylitol too, which can reduce decay-causing bacteria. Finally, be mindful of sorbitol, which can cause GI discomfort if ingested in extremely large doses.
“In addition to the well-established clinical benefits, for the first time, this study models the reduction in the relative risk of tooth decay and subsequent cost savings for dental care as a result of increased consumption of sugar-free gum as part of a complete oral hygiene routine,” said Michael Dodds, BDS, PhD, lead oral health scientist with Wrigley, which funded the study and produces a range of sugar-free gum brands.
While sugarless gum should not replace brushing and flossing with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day, flossing once a day, and a dental cleaning and exam every six months, the ADA reports, it can be an effective adjunct to oral care.
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