We tend to associate gum with candy and other tooth-destroying sweets, but chewing gum—provided that it’s sugarless—can actually help your teeth stay clean and strong! In today’s blog post, our Statesville dentist, Dr. Schmidt, explains why.
According to the American Dental Association, chewing sugarless gum for just twenty minutes after eating really can help reduce tooth decay. This is because chewing stimulates the salivary glands in our mouths, causing them to produce more saliva. Even though it’s pretty harmless to us, our saliva is acidic enough to mitigate the growth of bacteria. It’s also alkaline enough to neutralize enamel-destroying acids, like those produced by lemon, vinegar, and soda. The bottom line? The more saliva you make, the healthier your teeth will be. (That is, provided you consistently maintain other oral hygiene practices, like brushing and flossing.)
After reading the previous paragraph, you may be curious to know exactly how acidic your mouth is. If it’s been a while since you’ve taken a chemistry class, acidity and non-acidity (called “alkalinity”) are measured on a pH scale running from 1 to 14. The lower the number, the more acidic the solution. For most healthy people, saliva sits in the middle at about pH 7.4. For comparison, many carbonated soft drinks have a pH as low as 3.4, making them highly acidic from a biological perspective. Acids erode the surface of teeth, which are essentially composed of calcium salts that are highly vulnerable to acidic attack.
In order to see any benefits of saliva production, you’ll need to stick with a sugarless gum. That’s because the bacteria that live in your mouth love sugar, and, once they eat it, convert it into acid. Any gum flavored with non-sugar sweetener is beneficial to your oral health, but the best are gums flavored with xylitol. Xylitol is sometimes called a “mousetrap” for oral bacteria. After bacteria ingest it, they are no longer able to absorb glucose, and end up starving to death. This makes xylitol one of the very few things that can actually kill tooth bacteria.
As an added bonus, xylitol is a natural substance found in many fruits and vegetables, and even produced in small amounts by the human metabolism. Most healthcare professionals consider it very safe and even holistic. A quick warning, however: Xylitol is highly toxic to dogs. Make sure to keep sugarless gum high up out of reach from your furry family members!
If you are in need of a dental cleaning, oral surgery or other dental procedure, be sure to contact our general dentist in Statesville NC. We will do our best to make you feel relaxed and at home while receiving expert dental care. To request an appointment, click here!