The Truth About Chewing Gum

You’re at the grocery store and at the check-out counter your child asks you for a candy bar. You promptly say no, and then they ask you if they can get a pack of chewing gum instead. A few questions cross your mind. Is chewing gum okay for children? How will it affect his/her teeth? It has to be better than a piece of candy or chocolate bar, right?

Clinical studies have shown that chewing gum for 20 minutes following meals can help prevent tooth decay. Should chewing gum replace brushing and flossing? No, chewing gum should be used in addition to, not a substitute for, brushing and flossing your teeth. We still recommend brushing at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing at least once a day to clean the plaque between your teeth.

Always Choose Sugar-free not Sugar-filled Chewing Gum!

Most chewing gum contains regular sugar which can coat your teeth over time and cause cavities. Sugar-free gums are sweetened by non-cavity causing sweeteners such as aspartame, sorbitol, or mannitol. Chewing sugarless gum has been shown to increase the flow of saliva which reduces the acidity in your mouth and therefore reduces tooth decay. Of course, chewing sugar-filled gum will also increase salivary flow, but your saliva will also use the sugar to produce cavity-causing acids.

ADA Seal of ApprovalLook for the ADA Seal of Approval

The American Dental Association has approved certain sugar-free chewing gums as being safe and effective in reducing plaque acids, promoting the health and mineralization of tooth enamel, and reducing cavities and/or gingivitis. Here’s a handy list of chewing gums that have been approved by the ADA:

  • Dentyne Ice Sugarless Gum
  • Stride Sugarless Gum
  • Trident® Sugarfree Gum
  • Wrigley’s Extra Sugarfree Gum
  • Wrigley’s Orbit Sugarfree Gum
(CC Photo Credit: AdWriter on Flickr.com)
Elizabeth Cook Miller, D.D.S., M.S. is a pediatric dentist at Atkins, Maestrello, Miller & Associates Pediatric Dentistry in Richmond, VA. She is a new mother, active runner and her favorite movie is "Finding Nemo".

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