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Chewing Gum: Want a Piece?

Gum Balls
Photo by PresleyJesus via Flickr

You met someone special online a year ago and the two of you have been emailing, instant messaging, texting and calling each other ever since. Today you are finally going to meet them face to face.  Anxious to make a good first impression, you go through your mental checklist and realize that you probably shouldn’t have had that garlic chicken earlier.  You desperately search your car, hoping that you still have a piece of spearmint gum somewhere.  Just before you lose hope, success!  There is one last piece in your glove compartment.  You quickly unwrap it and toss it into your mouth as you get out of the car.  When you see your date waiting for you outside the restaurant, you realize that it was a good thing you found that gum.  They look even better than they did in their pictures!

Gum chewing is one of the most common habits in the world.  It dates back to ancient times.  The Greeks chewed mastic gum, which came from the resin of the mastic tree and was called mastiche.  And all the way over in the Americas, the ancient Mayans chewed a version of gum made from the sap of the sapodilla tree, which they called tsiclte.  However, unlike our distant ancestors, the base of most modern gums is manufactured from a blend of synthetic ingredients (elastomeres, resins and waxes).  But despite the change in ingredients, gum chewing is still a very popular habit.  But is it a healthy habit?

Is gum chewing healthy?
According to the American Dental Association, chewing sugarless gum may actually prevent tooth decay. When you chew gum, you produce extra saliva, which neutralizes tooth decaying acids that are produced during the breakdown of foods in our mouths while we eat.  If unchecked, these acids can break down tooth enamel, causing tooth decay.  The increased saliva also carries minerals that help strengthen the tooth enamel.  Plus, the chewing action helps to squeeze some saliva between your teeth to spread the benefits even to those hard to reach areas.

How can I get the most benefits from chewing gum?

For the best dental results, follow these guidelines:

  1. Chew gum right after a meal: After you eat is when the extra saliva can neutralize the acids that are produced when you eat.
  2. Chew gum in moderation: Frequent chewing can take a toll on your jawbone and gum tissue.  Since most people chew mainly with one side of the mouth, the favored side can get overused and lead to jaw pain.  Constant chewing can also crack filings and loosen inlays.  So, chew gum for no more then 15 to 20 minutes after each meal.
  3. Chew sugarless gum: Sugared gum also increases the saliva production, which is good. Unfortunately the sugar in the gum may lead to tooth decay because the acids that break down your enamel thrive on the sugar in the gum.
  4. Stay away from Aspartame or other artificial sweeteners: They may cause negative side effects.  Try to chew gums that contain more natural ingredients.

The bottom line
Chewing gum is not as bad as once thought, as long as you choose sugarless gum.  In fact, the right gum chewed the right way, may actually improve your dental hygiene.  However, it is not a substitute for brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once a day.  Just remember, please throw your gum away in a garbage can when you are done with it.  Don’t leave it on a chair, on the underside of a table or on the sidewalk for someone else to find.  That’s a surprise that none of us enjoys.

Comments (2)

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  1. Senia says:

    Talli,
    Fun post. I get the impression sometimes that someone who is chewing gum is acting so nonchalant that s/he may not care what I have to say.
    Still, it’s interesting to hear about the dental health consequences of chewing gum (for brief less-than-20-min periods of time).

    Best,
    Senia

  2. Rosy says:

    Excellent post, Talli!!! I love chewing gum-my limit is about 10-12 minutes, once the favor is gone. Good information!!! 🙂

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