Chew on This: Gum Has Benefits and Drawbacks

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – There are some strong opinions in the dental field on both ends of the gum-chewing spectrum, and today we’re sharing both sides of the argument, as well as a study about children and gum chewing.

Benefits

• If you’ve just eaten a meal and you aren’t able to brush and floss, popping a stick of sugarless gum in your mouth can be the next best thing. Gum-chewing produces saliva, which helps remove food particles that can lead to plaque and tartar development.

  Because gum-chewing increases saliva production, this helps eliminate dry mouth, which can be harmful to your oral health.

• Not only does chewing sugarless gum decrease the loss of tooth enamel, it actually promotes remineralization.

• Some studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes three times per day can reduce tooth decay by as much as 40 percent, according to a Contemporary Oral Hygiene article.

  Chewing gum sweetened with 100 percent xylitol reduces dental plaque.

Risks

• If you favor one side of your mouth when chewing gum, you can create muscle imbalance, which could cause problems for your temporomandibular joint.

• Chewing sugary gum bathes your teeth in sugar, which promotes tooth decay.

  A study published by the journal Eating Behaviors found chewing gum caused people to eat less healthy food and more junk food.

• Chewing gum can contribute to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, according to Dr. Patrick Takashi, of St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles.

JADA Study Identifies New Risk

A study published in the January issue of Pediatric Neurology found a link between gum chewing and headaches in children. The research included 30 patients between ages 6 and 19 who had chronic migraine or tension headaches and chewed gum between one and six hours daily. When patients quit chewing gum for one month, 19 reported that their headaches had stopped. An additional seven patients said they had fewer headaches.

Researchers then asked 26 patients to resume gum-chewing. Each patient said their headaches resumed within days.

We are happy to discuss this topic with you and offer advice if you’re experiencing any oral health issues that might be exacerbated by the gum-chewing habit, says Dr. Robert Walley, a dentist in San Francisco.

“Our goal is to help preserve our patients’ smiles so they can keep their natural teeth for a lifetime,” Dr. Walley says. “We believe there are situations where chewing gum helps promote that goal, and situations where we may recommend patients avoid gum chewing.”