The Role of Chewing Gum in Oral Hygiene


Chewing gum is a habit as old as civilisation itself. Beyond its breath-freshening qualities and its ability to stave off boredom, modern chewing gum - especially sugar-free varieties - plays a surprising role in oral hygiene.

Let's stick to the facts and explore how a simple piece of gum can contribute to a healthier mouth.

Chewing Gum and Saliva Production

The most immediate benefit of chewing gum is the increase in saliva flow. Saliva is nature's way of protecting our teeth and gums.

It helps to neutralise acids produced by bacteria in our mouth, which can lead to tooth decay and other oral health problems.

By stimulating saliva production, chewing gum acts as a natural defence mechanism against cavities and dental erosion.

The Acid-Neutralising Effect

When we eat, bacteria in our mouth break down food particles, especially sugars and starches, into acids.

These acids can attack the enamel of our teeth, leading to decay. The increased saliva flow from chewing gum helps to dilute these acids more quickly, neutralising them and reducing their harmful effects.

The Mechanical Cleaning Action

Chewing gum can also provide a mechanical cleaning action. While it's no substitute for brushing and flossing, the act of chewing can help dislodge food particles from the surfaces of the teeth, particularly from those hard-to-reach areas. This can help keep the mouth cleaner between brushings.

Sugar-Free is Key

It's important to note that not all gums are created equal when it comes to oral health benefits. Sugar-containing gums can actually contribute to tooth decay, as the sugar feeds the harmful bacteria in the mouth. 

Sugar-free gum, on the other hand, often contains xylitol, an artificial sweetener that cannot be metabolised by mouth bacteria. Studies have shown that xylitol can reduce the amount of decay-causing bacteria in the mouth, further protecting your teeth.

The Role in Managing Dry Mouth

For those suffering from dry mouth, whether due to medication, medical conditions, or other reasons, chewing sugar-free gum can be a lifesaver. 

By stimulating saliva flow, gum helps to alleviate the discomfort associated with dry mouth and protects the teeth and gums by maintaining a healthier oral environment.

A Word of Caution

While chewing sugar-free gum can be a beneficial adjunct to daily oral hygiene practices, it's not a replacement for them. Regular brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing, and dental check-ups are irreplaceable pillars of oral health. 

Additionally, excessive gum chewing can lead to jaw problems, such as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD), so moderation is key.

Final Thoughts

Chewing sugar-free gum can be a helpful habit in maintaining oral hygiene, particularly after meals when brushing isn't possible.