Did you know that chewing gum has been around since prehistoric times? In fact the first rudimentary form of chewing gum was made from tree sap from the birch bark tree. The ancient Greeks chewed the resin from the mastic tree to help clean their teeth and freshen their breath. Pretty clever when you consider that mastic gum has antiseptic properties which the Greeks believed would help contribute to good oral health. Even the Mayans liked chewy treats and the boiled sap from the sapodilla tree, called “cha” was given to children to chew as on special occasions. It wasn’t until the 1800s that a forward thinking entrepreneur named John Curtis introduced chewing gum made from Spruce sap to the American public with his sticks of gum aptly named “Maine Pure Spruce Gum”
Is Chewing Gum Good for Your Oral Health?
Today, gum comes in many different forms and varies greatly in shape, size and flavor, but did you know that some types of gum actually clean your teeth as you chew them? When it comes to choosing gum, it’s the type of gum that can make a huge difference to your oral health. Chewing gum that contains sugar for example, can increase the chance of you or your child developing cavities, but research shows that chewing sugar-free gum especially sugar-free gum that is sweetened with xylitol can actually help protect your teeth from cavity causing bacteria.
Best Sugar Free Chewing Gum for Teeth
Research shows that chewing sugar-free gum after snacks and meals can help to neutralize the acids released by the naturally occurring bacteria found in your child’s mouth. In fact chewing gum has been proven to stimulate the production of saliva which can neutralize decay causing acids known to contribute to the buildup of plaque within 20 minutes of gum chewing. Plaque damages the enamel of the teeth, making the surface susceptible to cavities. The artificial sweetener contained in a stick of gum combined with the chewing motion can release as much as ten times the normal amount of saliva, which not only neutralizes the acids found in your child’s mouth, it also washes away tiny particles of food, which helps to keep their teeth clean and free of decay causing bacteria.
Xylitol & Dental Caries
Naturally occurring oral bacteria called Streptococcus mutans, is one of the primary sources of cavity causing oral bacteria. Sugar-free gum that is sweetened with xylitol has been proven to inhibit the growth of certain bacteria including Streptococcus mutans. How? Xylitol stops the bacteria from adhering to the surface of the tooth, in essence disabling the cavity-causing process. Further studies indicate that the continued use of xylitol can cause the bacteria in the mouth to change by allowing less decay-causing bacteria to survive on the surface of the teeth.
Oral Hygiene Routine
For the majority of children and their parents, chewing sugar-free gum can be beneficial especially in situations where tooth brushing and flossing are impractical. However chewing gum should never be used as a substitute for good oral hygiene practices. Your Smile Reef pediatric dentist recommends a dental health plan which consists of brushing and flossing twice a day combined with regular dental checkups for the continued health of your child’s teeth and gums.