Ahh – the 1950’s: the age of innocence . . . and novelty songs! Purple People Eater, Monster Mash and our favorite, Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor On The Bedpost Overnight? Of course, none of us were actually around to hear those silly songs when they dropped, but the malady lingers on. Speaking of chewing gum, at Lifetime Family Dental in Gilbert, we are sometimes asked if chewing gum is healthy. Here are some things to consider:
Old as the hills
Like these humorous songs, chewing gum has been around for a long time. Some northern European groups were chewing birch bark tar 9,000 years ago. Ancient Maya and Aztec tribes chewed another kind of sap called chicle. Interestingly, only single women and children were allowed to chew it in public. The first successful commercial chewing gum was made from chicle in the 1880s. In fact, chicle made William Wrigley, Jr. a millionaire in the early 1900s with Juicy Fruit and Spearmint gum.
The ancient people we just mentioned most likely chewed gum to relieve toothaches and to clean their teeth. According to the American Dental Association, chewing gum increases the flow of saliva, so chewing gum after a meal can help remove the acids that bacteria produce when they break down food. When brushing and flossing after a meal isn’t practical, chewing gum can be a viable alternative. But it should never be a substitute for good oral hygiene—brushing twice a day and flossing daily.
Chewing gum that contains sugar is likely to increase the risk of cavities. Chewing also can exaggerate TMD, TMJ, and related jaw pain. And as anyone who wears dentures can attest, chewing gum with dentures is a no-no.
If you are going to chew gum, the most beneficial gum to chew is sugar-free gum. Especially gum that has been sweetened with Xylitol. Xylitol has been shown to inhibit the growth of Streptococcus mutans, a cavity-causing oral bacteria.
The next time you are asked if chewing gum is healthy, you can report that it helps to clean your teeth and your breath. Just be sure to remind them not to neglect regular dental checkups and cleaning. Lifetime Family Dental in Gilbert works hard to keep your smile looking great! Like the old song says, “when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.”