When it comes to healthy habits for your teeth and gums, you may not consider that chewing gum could be one of them. There are several important factors in making this a healthy habit, so don’t go buy a case of Juicy Fruit just yet. Read this blog first, and then you can make a healthy choice for you and your loved ones.
How Is Chewing Gum Good for the Mouth?
The greatest benefit of chewing gum is the natural stimulation of saliva production. Our body produces the most saliva when we eat a meal because saliva is necessary for good digestion of the food. Saliva production drops between meals. Chewing gum is a way to stimulate more saliva between meals by “tricking” your body into thinking there is food in the mouth. The chewing motion (called mastication) and the flavor of the gum increases the amount of saliva flowing.
Saliva is the body’s best defense against disease-causing bacteria in the mouth. It fights both cavities and gum disease by reducing plaque buildup on the teeth. It neutralizes the pH inside the mouth, which counteracts the acid produced by cavity-causing bacteria. It also contains minerals which re-harden and strengthen enamel after acid attacks. We all need healthy salivary flow to ensure a healthy mouth!
What Kind of Gum Can I Chew?
The first, and most important, factor in selecting a gum to chew regularly is that it MUST be sugar-free. If you chew gum that contains sugar, you will increase your risk for cavities. WIth the countless types of sugar-free gum available on the market today, you should have no trouble finding one that you enjoy.
Some chewing gums actually contain ingredients that have additional oral health benefits. The easiest one to find is xylitol, which is a plant-based sweetener. Xylitol inhibits disease-causing bacteria in the mouth, so it can reduce your risk for both cavities and gum disease. Studies show that chewing gum with xylitol throughout the day can fight plaque buildup and prevent cavities!
We also recommend choosing a strong flavor. Stronger flavors will stimulate more saliva production than mild flavors.
Who Should NOT Chew Gum?
Unfortunately, not everyone should chew gum. For some people with unstable jaw joints, chewing gum can increase pain or other symptoms of TMJ dysfunction.
If you have pain in your jaw joints (just in front of the ears), clicking or popping in the jaws, or any other TMJ symptoms, you should avoid chewing gum. The additional force you create from chewing could aggravate an already irritated joint!
Those who suffer from frequent headaches or migraines may notice an increase in pain if they begin chewing gum regularly. This is due to the added muscle activity of chewing. Patients with facial muscle pain and headaches should work to relax those muscles, not add to their activity.
If you’re unsure whether you should chew gum, ask your doctor at your next visit. She can assess the health of your jaw joints to determine the risk of any aggravation by chewing gum.
More Questions about Healthy Habits for Your Mouth?
Call Prosper Family Dentistry at 972-347-1145 today to schedule a consultation with our wonderful dentists, Dr. Jill, Dr. Cara, and Dr. Summer. We can answer any question you have about your specific risk factors and healthy habits you can start for great oral health!