When you’re bored, curbing cravings, wanting to quickly freshen your breath, or just need to get a bad taste out of your mouth, you turn to gum. A series of studies show that gum can also improve our cognitive functioning, enhancing your concentration and memory.
An old wives tale tells us that if swallowed, it can seek residency in our stomachs for 6-10 years. While that concept has been largely debunked, what do we actually know about the effects of chewing gum? Is it harmful or can it be beneficial? The truth is, yes, to both.
Helpful or Harmful?
It all depends on the type of gum you chew. Gum is beneficial to your dental hygiene if it’s sugar-free. Sugarless gum increases your salivary flow which can help neutralize and wash away acids that are produced when food is broken down by the bacteria in plaque on your teeth.
Over time, acid can break down tooth enamel, creating the conditions for decay. Increased saliva flow also carries with it more calcium and phosphate to help strengthen tooth enamel. Clinical studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following meals can help prevent tooth decay.
On the other hand, gum with sugar in it produces tooth decay-causing bacteria and can damage your enamel. So, stay away from gum brands that contain sugar.
The Key Ingredient
Xylitol is the ingredient to look for when choosing gum. Decay-causing bacteria love sugar. Xylitol, being a sugarless, soluble compound can actually reduce these harmful bacteria in your mouth, while strengthening your teeth. According to Healthline, Xylitol can reduce the amount of harmful bacteria in your mouth by 27-75%, while leaving disease-fighting, immune-boosting bacteria.
Seal Of Approval
Look for an American Dental Association seal of approval on the gum’s packaging. If you see the seal on the package, it means that the brand of gum meets the requirements for safety and efficacy for sugar-free chewing gum. The manufacturer must provide the results of both laboratory studies and clinical studies in humans. To date, the only chewing gums with the ADA seal are sugarless.
Other Health Benefits Of Chewing Gum
- Stress reduction. Stress is harmful to your body in many ways. It affects your digestion, immune system, sleep patterns, muscles, and mood. Studies show that gum reduces levels of cortisol in your body.
- Improved concentration. Surprisingly, chewing gum is on the list of “study hacks” for students. Chewing gum can actually improve memory and concentration. Chewing gum has a waking effect on your brain. The act of chewing wakes your body and makes you more alert, allowing you to focus and concentrate better. This alert feeling stems from increased blood flow to the brain and increased heart rate.
- Weight management. Although you can’t depend entirely on chewing gum to shed those extra pounds, it certainly can help. Sugar-free gum is an excellent snack choice at less than five calories per piece. Chewing gum helps you resist the urge to snack on higher-calorie, unhealthy foods, and you also burn calories while chewing.
How Your Neighborhood Dentist Can Help
While chewing gum does have many benefits, it does not replace regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups! At Revitalizing Smiles, we take care of all your dental hygiene needs. At our office, you’ll always find friendly, professional staff that will go out of there way to ensure your visit to the dentist is a happy one. Make an appointment today at our Fairfield, CT office, and let our team give you a reason to smile again!