Lots of people chew gum, whether for the taste, to eliminate bad breath, to help control nicotine urges or to keep their mouths fresh and occupied. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent every year in all parts of the world on chewing gum! While gum is not an expensive item, it can have expensive repercussions if you are chewing the wrong kind that promotes tooth decay and results in high dental bills and time lost with multiple visits to the dentist office.
So what exactly is chewing gum made out of? Gum is made from a substance called gum base that is found in the resin of trees. Gum makers have tried to use different ingredients as a base for gum, such as paraffin wax, the sap of the Mexican Sapodilla tree, until eventually both were replaced by cheaper synthetic materials. Gums also contain both artificial and natural flavors, depending what kind you buy and prefer. Gums are also made with vegetable oil to make them softer while glycerin helps maintain moisture. Preservatives and colorings are also added into gums while flavoring agents such as mint and sugar are added to give the gum its taste.
Sugarless gums are obviously a wiser choice if you have dental issues and want to avoid tooth decay and other problems associated with the consumption of candy and sweets. Sweeteners such as aspartame are used rather than sugar while xylitol, sorbitol, and mannitol are natural sugars that are used in what is considered sugarless gum. The gums that contain these natural sugars are considered sugar free because bacteria in our mouths cannot breakdown these ingredients, therefore they cannot be turned into an acid that damages our teeth.
Meanwhile, gums with wild and exotic flavors usually are loaded with tons of sugar and preservatives as well as unnatural flavors that are not so good for your mouth. Comparing sugarless and regular gum can be likened to drinking fruit juice compared to powder drinks such as Kool-Aid and artificial drinks such as Tang or Sunny Delight. Fruit juice contains natural vitamins and only natural sugars that are harmless while artificial drinks contain preservatives, tons of sugar and flavoring agents that our bodies are not replenished by. Regular gum is not as loaded with artificial flavors and sugars, but nevertheless the ingredients used contain sugar and unnatural ingredients that can harm our teeth while sugarless gums would cause very little harm with proper dental hygiene.
The chewing of regular gum facilitates a release of the sugars into your teeth and saliva that can lead to cavities and tooth decay. More sugar and more bacteria result in a greater risk for cavities and tooth decay. If you are a frequent gum chewer, another side effect can be bloating and belching due to the increased amount of air you are taking in. While sugarless gum might seem not to have less adverse effects, the sorbitol in sugarless gum has been known to cause bloating too.
Chewing gum became practice after our ancient ancestors’ chewed rubbery saps to help to keep from getting thirsty and to help keep their breath clean and fresh. The bark tar of birch trees was also used for its antiseptic qualities that are helpful prevent infection. The practice of chewing on certain substances and types of gums has continued through the years and has been known to help in other ways, such as adjusting ear pressure caused by altitude changes. Certain brands of gums contain additives such as magnolia bark that are antibacterial and would help in preventing cavities.
Although overuse of regular gum can be bad for our oral health, sometimes regular gum can be beneficial because it can neutralize the acid that erodes and damages teeth.
So what’s the verdict? Sugarless gum appears to be better for your teeth than regular gum. But as with so many health choices, it’s all about balance. Chewing gum occasionally may not be damaging to your teeth, but chewing it every day can definitely open doors for certain dental problems. Whenever you do choose to buy chewing gum, be sure to read the label and look for the dental association’s seal of approval that indicate that the gum brand and type are tooth friendly.
As with any action affecting your teeth, it is important to check with your dentist and get their recommendations. Our professional dental team at HSM Dental Group would be happy to answer any questions you might have! Please call us at (561) 232-2070and let our friendly staff address any dental concerns you may have. We at HSM Dental Group welcome an opportunity to help make your dental care fast and easy.