A biohack is described as a process of making small changes to your lifestyle and seeing how your body feels after giving it time to adjust to the small change. There is an easy hack or tweak you can make when it comes to your oral health that can reap big rewards. It is as easy as chewing gum regularly. Depending on a few factors, I will explain 3 ways how to know what’s the best gum for your teeth. Chewing gum helps your teeth in a number of ways that I will explain. You also need to know what to avoid when it comes to chewing gum that can potentially harm your teeth.
I will discuss how chewing gum will benefit your teeth and discuss the importance of your saliva for maintaining healthy teeth. Also, I want you to be aware of a certain ingredient to look for when deciding. There are also ingredients that you may want to avoid when making your decision. As a dental hygienist, I would like to give you the top recommendations by dental professionals when choosing the best gum for your teeth.
What Happens When You Chew Gum?
The American Dental Association (ADA) has added gum chewing to the beneficial practices for your teeth. They no longer just recommend brushing, flossing and rinsing. Now the recommended regimen is: brush, floss, rinse and chew.
Why chew gum? The main reason is because gum chewing stimulates your saliva. When your saliva is stimulated, a ton of good things are happening. According to the ADA, chewing gum after eating benefits teeth by neutralizing acids produced by food and plaque and by cleaning food from the mouth.
It also stimulates saliva flow by up to ten times the normal saliva rate. Stimulated saliva has a different chemistry than normal saliva. It buffers acid and helps prevent tooth decay because it contains concentrated amounts of bicarbonate. Saliva also contains enzymes that help us digest our food.
Other Benefits of Saliva
Saliva helps to restore teeth from the beginning stages of cavities. Within our saliva are minerals that can help replace the minerals that are lost through a process called demineralization. Our mouth contains a careful balance of good and bad bacteria called the microbiome. Our saliva also contains nutrients for a healthy microbiome. It contains peptides and proteins with antimicrobial properties. This further helps prevent cavities.
New research is finding that our mouths can benefit from supplementation to help maintain a healthy microbiome. By supplementing the saliva with oral probiotics, you may be able to fend off oral health issues such as cavities, upper respiratory issues, gum disease and bad breath. The majority of oral probiotic regimens focus on the idea of replacing “bad” bacteria with “good” bacteria. This is not a new concept but the latest studies are very promising for the improvement of oral health issues.
Many people struggle with not having enough saliva to maintain oral health. Dry mouth is a condition called xerostomia, which means having insufficient secretions. Gum chewing is the fastest and easiest way to promote saliva secretions and increase your saliva production.
When chewing gum is not an option, there are supplements called Xylimelts that can be a great help to people who suffer from dry mouth. Xylimelts are oral adhering discs that can be placed along the gumline and left in place for up to 8 hours. Within this time, xylitol helps to stimulate saliva and is especially helpful for those who suffer from dry mouth during the night.
Dry mouth can be caused by a number of factors including diet, aging, cancer therapy, hormonal imbalances and taking medications. Taking prescription medications can cause dry mouth more than any other reason. In fact, xerostomia is a side effect of hundreds of medications according to Mayo Clinic. The most common culprits of medications that cause dry mouth are antidepressants, blood pressure medications, antianxiety meds, antihistamines, pain meds, muscle relaxers and decongestants.
When choosing a gum, look for ones containing a specific ingredient that will benefit your teeth. Xylitol is an ingredient that has been proven to help remineralize your enamel. According to the American Society of Microbiology, the oral microbiome is defined as all the microorganisms found within the oral cavity. Xylitol changes the makeup of dental biofilm and therefore changes our oral microbiome to a more favorable state that helps restore oral health.
According to WebMD, xylitol is a naturally occurring alcohol. It is found in many vegetables and fruits as well as other plant materials. With similar sweetness as regular sugar, xylitol contains 40% fewer calories. Sugar alcohols are technically carbohydrates but they do not raise blood sugar levels. This makes xylitol a popular sweetener for diabetics or those people looking for low-carb options.
Xylitol keeps bacterial plaque from sticking or colonizing on your teeth. Its widespread use is credited towards its ability to remineralize the beginning stages of cavities. This means that looking for a gum that contains xylitol can help reduce the amount of cavities you form. This ingredient can be found in sugar-free versions of chewing gum.
The dental benefits of xylitol also involve your saliva. As mentioned above when discussing Xylimelts, xylitol will help stimulate your saliva. Stimulated saliva will help to wash away debris from your teeth. When xylitol combines with your saliva, it creates a more alkaline state of saliva than saliva stimulated by sugar.
When you chew gum containing xylitol, the pH of your saliva raises. Sugar and carbohydrates can lower your saliva pH to an acidic state below 5.7. This is when tooth demineralization can occur. With xylitol, phosphate and calcium salts help to harden parts of your enamel that are weaker when the pH of your saliva is raised to above a pH of 5.7.
Best Choices of Healthy Gum for Your Teeth
My absolute highest recommendation to my dental patients is Spry Gum. This is a top pick of dental professionals due to its xylitol content and the absence of artificial ingredients.
It comes in a sealed jar of 100 count and can be kept fresh and safe for weeks. Chewing Spry Gum after meals and in between meals will raise the pH of your saliva for cavity protection for hours after each chewing episode. Spry comes in several flavors but it is best known for its spearmint and cinnamon flavors which are long-lasting. Being made from natural ingredients, it is a healthier and safer product to consume.
The company also promotes Spry gum for fighting bad breath. Like other sugar-free gums, it does this by increasing saliva production, reducing dry mouth and improving poor pH balance. By chewing Spry gum with xylitol after meals, you can help neutralize acids that cause bad breath.
Another great option recommended by dental professionals Is PUR sugar-free gum. It comes in 6 different flavors including peppermint, cinnamon, bubble gum, wintergreen, pomegranate mint, coolmint and chocolate mint. Each chew gives you a refreshing burst of all natural substances and natural flavor extracts. It is sold in stay fresh blister packs of 9 pieces and you receive 12 packs for a total of 108 total pieces.
PUR gum is made with no artificial sweeteners and no aspartame. It is certified to be vegan, diabetic-friendly, non-GMO, soy-free, gluten-free, peanut and nut-free and sugar-free. It is also sweetened with 100% xylitol which is extremely beneficial to the health of your teeth.
Avoid Sugar In Gum
Chewing gum that contains sugar is harmful to teeth because sugar acts as a food source to the bacteria in your mouth. These bacteria are also referred to as bacterial plaque. When the bacteria in plaque feed on sugar they give off acids that can destroy tooth enamel and cause tooth decay.
Streptococcus mutans are a type of harmful bacteria in plaque that feed on sugar. After sugar consumption, your teeth are under attack by these bacteria as they deminerlize your enamel. This is a process called deminerlization. The process goes like this:
- Our oral microbiome (natural makeup of bacteria in the mouth) contains Streptococcus mutans
- As part of the biofilm, Streptococcus mutans inhabit the mouth
- These bacteria adhere to our teeth
- Streptococcus mutans ingest sugar and secrete lactic acid as a byproduct
- Cavities are formed from the acid through demineralization of the enamel
Luckily, reminerlization can occur by avoiding sugared gum and chewing gum that contains xylitol. This is a natural process that restores teeth to their original strength and hardness by replacing minerals that have been lost. Unlike sugar, xylitol cannot be converted to acid by the bacteria in your mouth. By chewing gum with xylitol, you can enjoy the sweet taste of sugar without the negative effects of sugar on your teeth.
Should You Avoid Aspartame and Saccharin In Gum?
Many sugar-free chewing gums contain artificial ingredients including aspartame and saccharin. These are controversial ingredients because of their possible link to cancer. Look for a chewing gum that does not contain artificial sweeteners. Some artificial sweeteners available today have been suggested to be carcinogenic but this has not been proven.
According to the American Cancer Society, “Aspartame hasn’t been linked conclusively to any specific health problems, other than for people with phenylketonuria (PKU). This is a rare genetic disorder (present at birth) in which the body can’t break down phenylalanine, an amino acid found in many foods (and in aspartame).”
And according to the National Institute of Cancer, a study in 2005 suggested that very high doses of saccharin might cause blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma. These studies were done in rats and the studies were further found to have many shortcomings. A review of epidemiological evidence found no consistent correlation between saccharin and cancer risk.
You may still be cautious about a possible cancer correlation with products containing aspartame and saccharin. If this is the case, I suggest you stick with other options available to you such as Spry and PUR which have more natural ingredients.
3 ways how to know what’s the best gum for your teeth include:
- Choose a gum that contains xylitol
- Avoiding gum that contains sugar
- Look for chewing gum without artificial ingredients
Gum chewing can be a very effective way to improve the health of your teeth and gums. The stimulation of your saliva is the main reason it is so effective. However, it is important not to chew just any gum. For optimal oral health, look for the superior qualities of Spry sugarless chewing gum or PUR sugar-free gum. Please leave any questions or comments below and I would be happy to help!
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