Children in the U.S. spend about half a billion dollars on chewing gum each year. The sticky treat can coat your teeth with sugar, cause jaw aches, or pull out your dental work. However, it can also relieve ear popping on flights, freshen breath, release stress, and increase saliva production. Dr. Locke can explain why your gum smacking habit may actually be helpful to your dental health.
Increasing Saliva Production
When you chew gum, you are constantly moving your jaw muscles and opening and closing your mouth. This action helps stimulate your salivary glands. Saliva helps wash away extra food particles in your mouth and keep your mouth moist to prevent bacteria from sticking to your teeth. Dr. Locke recommends chewing sugarless gum after eating.
When you’re stressed, you may want to clench your jaw and press your teeth together. Chewing gum puts the tension on your jaw, but blocks your teeth from smacking each other. Furthermore, studies show that cinnamon and mint, two popular gum flavors, can help reduce feelings of anxiety and frustration. As a bonus, cinnamon has compounds that can help fight bad odors to destroy the bacteria that cause bad breath, and mint is a strong scent to cover bad oral odors.
Many sugarless gums have sugar substitutes, like xylitol, that are added to the product for the sugar taste. Your body naturally produces up to 15 grams of xylitol per day. Studies show that chewing about seven pieces of xylitol gum per day can reduce your risk of cavities. How does it work? Xylitol comes from plants and does not break down like natural sugar. It neutralizes the natural pH level in your mouth to help prevent bacteria from sticking to your teeth. Bacteria are not able to digest xylitol like they can the other sugars in your mouth, so they don’t have anything to feed off, thereby reducing their growth.
Be careful, though, because although sugarless gums are beneficial, chewing gum makes your facial muscles tight, and chewing on one side of your mouth can create a muscle imbalance that requires TMJ therapy treatment.
As you stock up on gum for Bubble Gum Day on February 3, be careful to chew carefully. Visit Dr. Locke to check if your gum addiction is hurting or helping your smile. Contact our dentist office in Waco, Texas, at (254) 776-4888 to schedule an appointment.