What? Houston Dentist Says You and Your Kids Should Chew Gum?

Everyone has been told not to chew gum – it’s a nasty habit, it’ll rot your teeth, or it is not polite to chew gum. And there are few teachers (or school custodians) that are in favor of chewing gum in the classroom. I remember well the giant stalactites of gum plastered to the underside of my school desk.

Well Guess What? Chewing Gum Can Help Prevent Cavities!

You mean I can chomp on all the Hubba Bubba and Double Bubble I want? Not exactly.

Some basic science and dental education is in order.

Your teeth are little gems…really. The enamel is a highly ordered and dense stack of crystals that are interwoven with collagen. Just below the enamel is dentin, a less dense but still crystalline structure. Stuck to these teeth are bacteria. Bacteria live in everyone’s mouth and they form complex structures of groups of various kinds that are known as biofilms. Once these biofilms have formed and certain sugars (more in a minute) are eaten, the bacteria produce acids that demineralize teeth. The same thing can happen with certain beverages like orange juice, milk or soda. You may not know that on top of sugar these beverages are acidic enough to demineralize teeth. When I say demineralize, I mean that the crystals can melt away eventually leaving the collagen matrix behind which, if damaged, will make a cavity. So, why don’t we all have cavities? It turns out the demineralization is reversible and minerals in your saliva and some new treatment systems supply the chemistry to halt and then reverse the demineralization. This cycle happens every day.

The problem occurs when you sip those drinks all day long or fail to brush your teeth. Sipping sugary drinks extends the acidic conditions for long periods of time. When you gulp a soda pop, it takes your mouth about 30 minutes to recover from the demineralizing conditions. If you sip soda popall day your teeth are constantly under attack. Likewise, if you eat granola or whatever your favorite sticky snack may be and you leave that on your teeth all night, your teeth will be under attack. Worse yet, at night our mouths dry out and the good effects of saliva are reduced. So, BRUSH AND FLOSS YOUR TEETH.

Chew Gum to Prevent Cavities, You Say?

Now, before you start chain-chewing these gums, you may want to know that too much Xylitol can cause bloating and diarrhea. But, chewing 6-12 pieces a day should be fine. Sugar-free gum also offers some benefits because it stimulates saliva production - but it won’t inhibit bacterial growth. Also, you may wish to avoid gum chewing if you suffer from jaw pain or it develops as a result of all that chewing. But, the bottom line is yes, chewing gum really can be good for your dental health!