There are quite a few reasons that people chew gum. It’s a tasty, convenient mouth refresher in a pinch, it’s an appetite suppressant, and some even cite chewing gum as an effective stress and anxiety reducer. Chewing gum is nothing new to our society. In fact, some form of chewing gum has been a part of our culture for thousands of years.

But if you rely on gum too much or if you are chewing the wrong kind, it may cause long term oral health concerns. 

If the beginning of this article gives you pause for popping your next stick of Spearmint, don’t freak out just yet gum chewers. There is hope. Most of the issue with gum and its negative effects starts with the types that we chew. 

“Knowing a bit about chewing gum and both its pros and cons can help you when choosing which kind to buy,” says Dr. Parr of Surf City Dental.

Negatives of Chewing Gum

Acid Build-Up and Enamel Damage 

According to the American Dental Association, gum containing sucrose can be metabolized by oral bacteria. This bacteria produces biofilm and acids which causes your enamel to break down. Chewing frequency and combination of when it is chewed prior to eating certain foods adds to this issue but should be noted if you regularly chew gum that contains sugar. 

Beware Certain Harmful Ingredients

Some brands of gum contain controversial ingredients like Butylated Hydroxytoluene, Titanium Dioxide, and Aspartame in small amounts which have been linked to cancer, nervous system damage, and obesity. While studies are inconclusive, the scientific community agrees that more research should be concluded on these ingredients and consumers should remain aware of their presence in certain foods.

Positives of Chewing Gum

Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Studies have shown that the act of chewing on gum has helped people reduce the feeling of stress, particularly those with rigorous academic workloads. This is directly due to the release of cortisol during gum chewing which aids in stress reduction. 

Improve Alertness and Productivity

The numbers behind this discovery are pretty mind-blowing as some tested ¼ better in short term memory tests and 36% better in long term tests. These findings admit that gum can be a distraction early on in tasks, but actually improve performance and alertness the longer a person is completing a task. 

Curb Appetite

For many, gum can replace the desire to eat foods that are a big no-no to their diet. Gum can replace the feeling of wanting to keep eating and its sweetness can take the place of that cookie after a meal.

Protect Teeth

If used correctly it can help protect your teeth from cavities. Yes, the right piece of gum can protect your teeth! Throwing a stick of gum in after a meal increases the saliva in your mouth which assists in washing away the unwanted debris and bacteria that builds up from the food you eat. 

Choosing the Right Chewing Gum: One Key Ingredient

Our own Dr. Parr here at Surf City Dental loves chewing gum but knows the importance of one ingredient that should be in every piece: xylitol. Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol with fewer calories than regular sugar with similar sweetness. Xylitol concurrently aids in the prevention of bacteria on your teeth, which can also be a common cause of bad breath. 

If you rely on gum to get you through your day, there are some simple steps to take to ensure that you aren’t harming your teeth. The addition of a brand that contains xylitol can even increase your oral health. 

Chewing gum should never replace the overwhelming benefits of regularly brushing and flossing your teeth, but instead can help in the process and improve other aspects of your life. 

Contact Surf City Dental to learn more about the pros and cons of chewing gum and get some more tips from Dr. Parr!