Is Gum Bad for Your Teeth?
Many a child has dedicated a few hours and a couple of packs of gum to perfecting the art of blowing bubbles. They rarely worry about the potential impact on their oral health. Adults, however, recognize that gum can affect your teeth and jaw. Is gum bad for your teeth? The answer depends on various factors. They include the type of gum and the health conditions of the person chewing the gum. Here’s what you need to know before you decide to pop another piece of chewing gum into your mouth.
Exploring the Benefits of Gum
Chewing gum may actually be good for your teeth. As the American Dental Association explains, a sugarless chewing gum habit, when added to a solid oral hygiene routine that includes twice-daily brushing and flossing, may help to keep your risk of cavities low. How does this work? It triggers an increase in saliva flow and volume. The mechanical action of chewing and the taste of the gum prompts your mouth to release more saliva. This rinses the teeth, sweeping away bacteria and preventing problems. The additional saliva also supplies extra minerals that can remineralize the teeth, strengthening the enamel.
The teeth aren’t the only parts of the body to benefit. According to Humana, chewing gum can also offer other advantages:
- Brain: Gum chewing can boost memory, concentration, and alertness and lessen stress.
- Breath: Increasing saliva keeps the mouth moister and the breath fresher. Flavored gum is especially useful for combatting bad breath.
- Gut: Saliva is a natural acid buffer. Chewing gum encourages you to generate more saliva and swallow more. These actions help push acid down, soothing heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease.
- Waistline: Chewing gum can help you control food cravings, which may help you lose weight.
Choosing Gum Wisely
With so many potential benefits, it might seem like dentists would be handing out gum at every appointment. However, there are a few things you need to consider carefully before you begin to chew gum. For starters, not all gums are the same. While you may be focused on flavor or brand, the most important distinction for your teeth deals with sweeteners. To protect your smile, choose sugar-free gum. A gum that’s sweetened with sugar could fuel bacteria growth and increase your risk of cavities. If you’d like to be really safe, choose a sugar-free gum with the ADA’s seal on the package.
Knowing When to Chew and When Not to Chew
Your health situation also plays a role in whether gum is a good choice. There are some circumstances where it’s probably best to limit or avoid chewing gum:
- Braces: Gum can gum up the brackets and wires, creating a nightmarish situation.
- Dental work: If you have a lot of crowns, fillings, and other dental work, chewing gum may loosen them.
- Migraines: Some migraine sufferers find chewing gum can be a trigger.
- Temporomandibular joint disorder: Chewing gum can put pressure on the temporomandibular joints, which are also known as the jaw joints. Anyone who already has a TMJ disorder should avoid chewing gum. If you suddenly develop a clicking or popping in your jaw or jaw pain, be sure to tell your dentist at your next appointment. This is a common sign of TMJ.
Is gum bad for your teeth? Most people over the age of four can safely indulge in sugar-free chewing gum as long as they chew responsibly. To avoid excessive chewing, be sure to listen to your body. If your teeth or jaw start to hurt, stop. Are you worried about your dental work? If you have any concerns, talk with your dentist before you unwrap a stick of chewing gum. When it comes to keeping your smile healthy, your dentist is your best ally.