Today’s Dental Health

Dr. Arestea Kakaris, of Kakaris Family Dentistry, 21080 Allen Road in Woodhaven.

Is chewing gum a wise idea?

By Dr. Arestea Kakaris
Clinical studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following meals can help prevent tooth decay.

Here’s something to consider. The physical act of chewing gum increases the flow of saliva in your mouth. If you chew after eating, the increased salivary flow can help neutralize and wash away the acids that are produced when food is broken down by the bacteria in plaque on your teeth.

Over time, acid can break down tooth enamel, creating the conditions for decay. Increased saliva flow also carries with it more calcium and phosphate to help strengthen tooth enamel.

But, listen up: Gum is an adjunct to brushing and flossing, but now a substitute for either. The American Dental Association recommends brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and cleaning plaque from between your teeth once a day with dental floss or other interproximal dental cleaners. To date, the only gum the American Dental Association recognized is sugarless gum.

Sugarless gums are sweetened by non-cavity causing sweeteners such as aspartame, sorbitol or mannitol. Chewing sugarless gum has been shown to increase the flow of saliva, thereby reducing plaque acit, strengthening the teeth and reducing tooth decay.

Of course, chewing sugar-containing gum also will increase saliva flow, but it also contains sugar, which is used by plaque bacteria to produce decay-causing acids.

Today, we can look for chewing gum that delivers a variety of therapeutic agents that could provide additional benefits to the ability of gum to mechanically stimulate saliva flow.

Daily use of xylitol gum in dental has shown remarkable effectiveness. Xylitol’s noncariogenic five-carbon structure keeps it from being metabolized by bacteria, stopping the production of tooth-decay causing acid. By chewing gum containing at least one gram of xylitol, bacteria is prevented from creating the acids that damage the teeth.

Regular use of xylitol gum prevents plaque from gaining hold on dental surfaces. Hence, it protects the mouth between brushing and flossing for both adults and children.

Want to chew gum? Not a bad idea — just make sure it’s sugarless. Happy New Year!