In our last blog we talked about the dangers that Halloween candy hold for your teeth. Not every type of candy or gum is bad for your oral health, however. Sugar free candy and gum actually can be beneficial. We’ll talk about why sugar free candy and gum can help strengthen your teeth and prevent cavities here.
Chewing Sugar-Free Gum Increases Saliva Production
Your mouth produces saliva as a way of moisturizing the food that you eat so that it can be more easily broken down in the digestive process. Saliva functions to wash away bits of food that can get stuck between teeth and gums and neutralize the acids in your mouth. It also contains calcium and phosphate which are good for strengthening tooth enamel. Chewing in general stimulates saliva production.
If you pretend to chew something, you will feel the saliva increase even when there’s nothing in your mouth. Chewing sugar-free gum does the same thing. It makes your mouth continue to produce saliva in the absence of food and without having to pretend to chew. If you chew sugar-free gum after a meal, it will help rid your mouth of both food bits and acids. According to the American Dental Association, studies have shown that chewing gum for 20 minutes after a meal helps prevent tooth decay. Chewing any kind of gum will help increase the amount of saliva in your mouth, but sugary gum feeds the bacteria that produces plaque, which is certainly not the goal.
Chewing sugar-free gum can reduce tooth sensitivity too. One study published in British Dental Journal found that patients who had their teeth whitened and then chewed sugar-free gum experienced less discomfort or sensitivity than patients who did not.
Dentists recommend using toothpaste and mouthwash containing fluoride to control cavities. The xylitol found in many kinds of sugar-free candy and gum acts in a similar way as fluoride. Xylitol destroys acids that threaten to erode your enamel. The bacteria consume the xylitol, but they cannot digest it like they can sugars. The more sugar-free candy you eat or gum you chew, the smaller the bacteria colonies get over time and the less danger they pose to your mouth.
Which Sugar-Free Candies and Gums Are Best?
If you’re looking to purchase sugar free gum or candy, look for the ADA seal on the package. Companies that earn this seal need to prove that their products are safe and effective at reducing plaque. Locally, several decades ago a dentist in Grand Rapids started a company called Dr. John’s Healthy Sweets in order to supply healthier candy to his patients. There is a wide variety of sweets, gum, and xylitol products to choose from on Dr. John’s website if you want more than what is available in the grocery check-out aisle.
Of course, chewing gum or eating sugar-free candy doesn’t take the place of a good oral health regime. While we do recommend chewing sugar-free gum after meals, we believe that brushing and flossing every day and seeing a dentist for scheduled cleanings is vital for reducing the plaque in your mouth and preventing cavities, gingivitis, and other problems with your teeth and gums.