In India, chewing a gum is often reflective of a brash or ostentatious personality. Mostly, teenagers or youngsters seem to be fond of chewing gums of different flavours, colours, and shapes. Very few adults are seen chewing gums in India as opposed to Western countries. Children are often not allowed to chew gums as it poses a choking hazard and is regarded as a bad habit in school.
However, there are certain advantages to chewing a gum which some of us are not aware of. Individuals chewing gums are found to be have higher alertness level and improved performance at work. But, besides just helping you to survive that post-lunch presentation without falling asleep, chewing a sugarless gum post meal can also help to reduce risk of tooth decay.
When we eat food and are not able to rinse /brush soon after, then some food particles tend to stick to our teeth. Bacteria in plaque on the teeth react with sugar (added sugar or even simple sugars including those coming from breads, biscuits, etc) from the food particles remaining in the mouth to form acid. Or sometimes, citrus fruit, fruit juices and fizzy drinks itself are acidic. Unless the pH is restored back to alkaline, the bacterial interaction continues and this acid causes breakdown of the tooth enamel making it susceptible to decay and cavities.
Benefits of chewing a sugarless gum after meal
In such a situation, chewing gum can help by:
- Increasing flow of saliva which is alkaline so it helps to neutralize the acids
- Washing away the remaining food particles and the acid formed
- Carrying calcium and phosphate which help to strengthen the tooth enamel
What is in your chewing gum
Usually chewing gums are prepared using the following
- Gum base
- Artificial sweeteners (such as aspartame, sorbitol or mannitol, acesulfame K , xylitol)
- Softeners (glycerin or other vegetable oil products)
- Flavorings and colorings
One may want to look for more benefits from the sugarless gum e.g. mint /spearmint which is helpful in producing alkaline environment. Also , one for gums that contain calcium lactate which can help in strengthening the tooth enamel
Different kinds of artificial sweeteners are used in sugar free gums as they impart sweetness without supplying calories. There is increasing demand for sugar free gums as we do not want to increase calorie intake through gums even. Out of the various options available, xylitol seems to be a more effective sweetener for sugar free chewing gums.
Xylitol as a preferred sweetener in chewing gums
- Xylitol is considered a five-carbon sugar, which means it is an anti-microbial, preventing the growth of bacteria.
- While sugar in its various forms creates acid, xylitol is alkaline enhancing. This alkaline quality is also good for teeth.
- Xylitol helps to raise plaque pH, thereby reducing the time that teeth are exposed to damaging acids caused by sugar as well as starving harmful bacteria of their food source.
- Studies have found a reduction in cavities with regular xylitol use in chewing gum.
How to get the most out of the gum!
Studies have shown that it takes the saliva about an hour to replace the minerals that the enamel has lost. So it is preferable to chew sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after eating or drinking to enable the flow of saliva
So whether you are a fan of chewing gums or not, it may just be a good idea to try chewing one occasionally post lunch as it will increase your alertness as well as have an anticariogenic effect. Some experts warn regarding effect of excess chewing gums such as tiring of the jaw, excess sugar from sugary gums and side effects of the artificial sweeteners like aspartame. We suggest you exercise moderation.
It must be noted that chewing a gum is not an alternative to brushing. Brushing teeth twice a day is a must for good oral health, but chewing sugarless gums post meal can be an added healthy habit as a part of oral hygiene.