Research generally suggests the answer to this question is “yes” – it does help. When you chew sugar-free gum after meals and snacks, it can help neutralise and rinse off the acids released by the bacteria present in plaque. Even after good brushing and flossing, plaque quickly begins to colonise the mouth again. Some of the bacteria in plaque produce acids which, over time, damage the enamel (or outer layer) of the teeth.
This can cause unsightly decalcification marks or even cavities that require fillings. The mere act of chewing stimulates saliva flow, and more saliva helps to neutralise acids and wash away food remnants in the mouth. Increased saliva flow also increases the amount of calcium and phosphate found in saliva – which can help strengthen tooth enamel. It is generally recommended that you chew for approximately twenty minutes after meals and snacks.
What type of sugar-free gum should I use?
Some sugar-free chewing gums have additives that may enhance the protection they offer. In a large clinical trial conducted by the Cooperative Research Centre for Oral Health Science at the University of Melbourne, it was found that subjects who chewed gum containing the calcium phosphate complex CPP-ACP had a significantly lower rate of dental decay progression than those who chewed standard sugar-free gum. The complex is derived from peptides isolated from the milk protein casein, complexed with calcium and phosphate, and has been found to be effective in replacing lost mineral or re-mineralising decay-damaged teeth. At Smile Solutions we recommend discussing the use and purchase of this type of gum with your dental practitioner. Some studies also suggest that when gum is sweetened with xylitol it may inhibit the growth of oral bacteria that cause cavities.
Should I use chewing gum if I have a sore jaw?
Despite the benefits of chewing sugar-free gum after meals, there are some instances in which it may not be advisable. If, for example, you have any jaw aches and pains, or you have temporomandibular disorder (TMD/TMJ), you should consult your dentist or specialist as chewing gum (or any foods that could strain the jaw) may not be recommended. Your practitioner will be able to advise you on what other options/products are available to help prevent tooth decay and other oral health problems.
In summary, sugar-free gum may be a great addition to your oral health hygiene routine but it is important to know that it does not replace other good oral hygiene habits. It is still recommended that you brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and floss or use other inter-dental cleaners as recommended. Remember to visit your dental practitioner regularly so they can discuss with you any of your oral health concerns and advise you on your individual case.