In essence, this question may seem a little silly, but in actual fact it has some merit to it. However, before we get to the heart of the matter, let’s take a little trip in time to where it all began.
While many believe chewing gum, or ‘gum (depending on where you are from), to be a recent invention, however, the ancient Greeks were gnawing on a chewy tree sap called Mastiche, which was derived from the Greek word ‘mastichan’ meaning ‘to chew’. But, they were not the only ones to take up this practice.
On the other side of the world, the Mayans enjoyed chewing on Tsictle, the sap of the Sapodilla tree. Farther north, Native Americans living in what is now known as New England, enjoyed the sap of Spruce trees. By the mid-1800s, entrepreneur John Curtis introduced Spruce-sap based chewing gums in to the US, which were sold as ‘Maine Pure Spruce Gum’.
From Spruce-sap based gums, came another formula made with petroleum-driven paraffin wax, which gum makers added to sugar to make it sweeter. Eventually, makers returned to a trusted source; tree sap. The preferred sap to be used as the basis of the gum was the Mayans’ Tsictle, known as ‘Chicle’ in the US, which came to dominate the market.
However, this article is about the effects of chewing gum on your teeth and gums, not a history lesson. Nonetheless, it’s still kind of interesting. Now, to the question at hand:
Is chewing gum bad for my teeth and gums?
According to the ADA (American Dental Association), it all depends on the type of chewing gum you use.
Firstly, you need to know the benefits of the physical act of chewing gum. When you chew gum, your mouth generates saliva which helps neutralise and wash away the acids produced when food is broken down by the plaque on your teeth. Over time, this acid wears down the enamel, creating ideal conditions for decay. Increased saliva flow also carries more calcium and phosphate to help strengthen tooth enamel.
As a result, the ADA recommends that you chew sugarless gum for 20 minutes after eating, in order to prevent tooth decay. Of course, we all know the damage that sugar can cause to your teeth, so sugarless chewing gum is the preferred recommendation. It will ensure that you get all the benefits that chewing offers, without compromise.
As with many dental queries, the correct answer depends on many factors. Chewing gum is not bad for your teeth or gums depending on the type of chewing gum you use. The next time you are lined up at the registers and just want something to freshen your breath, or to just chew, sugarless chewing gum is by far the best option.
At Somerset Dental, we will always advise that chewing gum is by no way a replacement for a good, thorough brushing twice daily. If you, or any of your family start to complain of sensitivity or pain to a tooth or their gums, please contact us on 1300 707 046, or you can make an appointment by filling out our online form here and someone will be in contact with you to confirm your booking.