As I perused through some news, I ran across a headline from Delta Dental that stated “sugarless gum can be good for teeth.” Oh? I like sugar-free gum. Tell me more!
I began reading through the part of the article with detail about the origins of chewing gum and how gum sweetened with sugar isn’t so good. The first point about how sugarless gum can be good for your teeth focuses on the sweetener, xylitol.
Sugar-free gum uses a variety of artificial sweeteners. One of the more popular sweeteners for sugarless gum today is a natural sweetener called xylitol. Delta Dental states that “xylitol has been proven to be an effective weapon fighting oral diseases.” In the statement, there is a link to another article by Delta Dental all about xylitol products.
Reading through the linked article, I found out how xylitol is extracted from plants, contains one-third of the calories as sugar and “has been proven to effectively prevent cavities when added to chewing gum… and other oral care products.” Great! Sign me up!
But wait, it takes about 20 grams of xylitol (or 20 sticks of gum) per day to work? Um, that seems a bit excessive. Who in the world would chew on 20 sticks of gum per day? Oh, and apparently xylitol can cause diarrhea and gas when consumed in excess. And, by the way, since “long-term side effects haven’t been extensively studied,” Delta Dental recommends that pregnant or breastfeeding women avoid xylitol.
So, basically, xylitol has been proven to prevent cavities in large quantities. However, large quantities of xylitol can cause unwanted health issues and pregnant or breastfeeding women should steer clear of it.
IS SUGAR-FREE GUM GOOD FOR TEETH, OR NOT?
Maybe. But, it’s unclear if the sweetener alternative, xylitol, really contributes to its perks. It’s more likely that the act of chewing any sugarless gum provides the most benefit. In the original article, Delta Dental writes:
“Chewing any sugar-free gum can greatly increase your flow of saliva, which may prevent tooth decay. That’s because the stronger flow of saliva removes sugars and neutralizes acids on your teeth. Increased saliva flow also reduces your risk of cavities because it contains calcium and phosphate that strengthen your teeth. In addition, increased saliva flow can temporarily improve effects of cavity-causing dry mouth, including bad breath.
If you chew sugar-free gum, it’s best to chew for 20 minutes after meals and snacks when the increased flow of saliva is most needed to help clean your mouth. Chewing sugar-free gum may also reduce stress, likely because of changes in brain chemicals as you chew. Stress is a factor in several oral health issues, including teeth grinding and clenching, mouth sores and gum disease.”