If you or your child has a habit of chewing gum, you might have stopped to think about how it could potentially be affecting your teeth. Although certain kinds of gum might contribute to tooth decay, other kinds seem to have a beneficial effect. This means that whether chewing gum is bad for teeth varies depending on its ingredients.
Learn more about chewing gum and which ingredients to watch out for below.
The Effects of Chewing Gum on Teeth
Chewing gum flavored with real or artificial sweeteners can have an adverse effect on your teeth, even if the gum is labeled “sugar-free.” Like sugary or starchy foods, sweetened chewing gum feeds the oral bacteria that form plaque on your teeth. This makes certain types of gum a risk factor for tooth decay, like snacking on junk food.
Other reasons sweetened chewing gum could be bad for you are that it might:
- Affect your appetite: If you’re used to chewing gum that tastes like candy, you have trained your palate to enjoy sweets. This means you’re less likely to prefer vegetables, fruits, and other healthy foods. Instead, you might find yourself craving sweets and other snack foods.
- Damage your dental work: Chewing gum may cause the release of mercury from your amalgam fillings. The motion of your teeth rubbing over sticky gum also creates friction, pulling on your fillings. Those with braces and other appliances like palate expanders should avoid chewing any type of gum.
- Lead to tooth and gum problems: The sweetener in gum can lead to acid attacks on your teeth. This works the same way for your oral bacteria as eating candy.
- Wear down your teeth: The constant repetitive chewing motion may be taxing on your enamel (the outer layer of the tooth). Sugary gum can also risk damaging enamel as a result of plaque on the teeth.
- Contribute to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) or jaw disorders: TMJ disorders affect the joints that connect your jaw to your skull, and they can cause symptoms like headaches, jaw pain, and tooth pain. Frequent chewing can lead to muscle fatigue, possibly contributing to TMJ, and chewing aggressively at an angle for long periods can affect the jaw.
How Can It Affect Your Smile and Teeth
The main problems with chewing gum come from sweeteners used as flavoring agents. Many people chew gum to freshen their breath, but you should avoid using gum as a replacement for a good oral hygiene routine. Always brush your teeth before bed, even if you have chewed gum throughout the evening or between mealtimes.
The positive effects of chewing gum are that it:
- Helps clean your teeth: Gum stimulates saliva production and sticks to the food particles left over from a meal. Despite this, chewing gum is a poor substitute for brushing your teeth.
- Reduces heartburn: Some people with acid reflux find that chewing gum can help ease heartburn. The increased saliva production helps reduce acidity in the esophagus from stomach acid.
- Reduces bad breath odor: Even sweetened gum has the benefit of temporarily making your breath smell better. Your oral bacteria produce a bad odor when they feed on sugars and produce acids, however, so gum may just mask the smell.
The disadvantages of chewing gum are that it:
- Is a possible link to tooth decay: The ingredients in your gum can feed oral bacteria that cause tooth decay and other issues.
- Can wear down the teeth: A repetitive grinding motion is bad for your enamel.
- May cause jaw irritation: Chewing gum is a jaw exercise that can make your muscles sore and fatigued.
- May cause headaches: Some people who chew gum get headaches from the muscle stress.
Best Chewing Gum
You might be wondering if sugar-free gum is bad for teeth, and the answer depends. Gum can be labeled “sugar-free” but still contain an artificial sweetener like aspartame. Artificial sweeteners are also bad for your teeth when allowed to remain on the enamel for extended periods.
The most beneficial gum ingredients for your teeth include:
- Xylitol: This natural sweetener has been studied to reduce oral bacteria and neutralize the acids they produce. Unlike sugar and other natural sweeteners, xylitol could help fight periodontal disease, according to the results of this research.
- Casein phosphopeptide-amorphous calcium phosphate (CPP-ACP): Also called recaldent, this ingredient can slow the effects of tooth decay by remineralizing the teeth. If you are allergic to milk, seek out a different kind of gum. CPP-ACP is derived from milk protein.
- Natural mint flavoring: Mint extract serves as a natural sweetener. Also check that the gum is sugar-free and aspartame-free.
Look for an American Dental Association (ADA) seal on the gum package. This indicates that the ADA deems the brand safe and effective for your oral health concerns.
Does Chewing Gum Hurt Teeth?
The answer depends on your habits. You might want to reconsider if you:
- Chew gum frequently: If you chew gum often, you are more at risk of the negative effects. Frequent chewing can wear down your teeth and also lead to jaw soreness and tightness.
- Chew artificially sweetened gum: Some gums contain as much sweetener and artificial flavoring as candy. These gums might increase your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
- Chew gum as a replacement for brushing and flossing: Sometimes, when you’re busy, popping a stick of gum into your mouth is faster than brushing your teeth before you leave. If you find that you chew gum as a replacement for brushing on multiple days of your typical week, you could be at risk of developing poor oral health.
Do Dentists Recommend Gum?
Some dentists might recommend a specific type of gum to patients who frequently use it. Because of the varying ingredients and other factors, it is rare for a dentist to recommend chewing gum as a home remedy or preventive treatment.
Some studies show that chewing sugarless gum can benefit teeth, but results from other studies are mixed. Frequent chewing is correlated with many effects, and some are negative. This is why dentists are unable to widely recommend chewing gum as being good for your oral health.
Schedule an Appointment With AZ Family Dental
If you’re curious about how your chewing gum habit might be affecting you or your child’s teeth, or if you have other concerns, ask your dentist during a routine oral exam. Visiting a dentist or hygienist for regular teeth cleanings can help you and your child avoid cavities and other concerns. Unlike chewing gum, getting teeth cleanings is a dentist-approved method for preventing oral health problems.
At AZ Family Dental, our experienced dental health professionals offer teeth cleanings and other services to help your smile stay looking its best. Contact us to learn more or to schedule an appointment.