Gum Facts: The Sticky Truth

Dental Health
By: Spirit Dental
July 31, 2017

A young couple smiling while sitting in their living room.

Do you like to chew gum just about every day? Before you grab that next piece, keep reading for a few sticky truths about chewing gum and whether or not it is actually a good thing for your pearly whites.

Chewing and Your Jaw Health

TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder) is a painful condition that can be brought about by a wide range of factors. Chewing gum happens to be one of them.

Basically, when you chew gum, you could be putting stress on your jaw, and that might increase your risk of jaw problems. If you have symptoms like discomfort in your jaw, or you hear clicking or popping sounds when you open and close your mouth, it’s probably best to avoid chewing gum, as it may make the problem worse. Also consider consulting your dentist, who can help you find the cause of your jaw ailments and provide you with treatment options.

Gum and Fillings Don’t Always Mix

So this one is pretty scary. If you chew gum a lot, and you have dental fillings, you may want to ditch the habit. Researchers have determined that individuals who have amalgam (mercury) fillings and chew gum for hours every day also have greater amounts of mercury in their urine and blood. Whoa!

How you ask? Chewing gum could cause mercury vapor from the fillings to be released, allowing it to get into your blood. Considering the toxicity of mercury, you certainly don’t want it coming out of your fillings and getting into the rest of your body.

Sugary Gums Are a Big No-No

If you are chewing gum that contains sugar, you might be putting the health of your teeth and gums at risk. Why? Because bacteria can thrive on the sugar, and that could lead to the formation of yucky, sticky plaque, which can then harden into damaging tartar.

Here’s what else might happen when you chew sugary gum too often: the enamel of your teeth may become damaged, you may develop cavities, and your risk of gum disease may increase as well. In other words, if you are chewing on sugar-loaded gum, you are basically feeding the bacteria that can be detrimental to your overall oral health.

Minty Gum to Freshen Breath? Think Again

A lot of people reach for a piece of minty gum when they want to freshen their breath. But, again, if the gum contains a lot of sugar, you could actually be doing more harm than good. Plus, because that sugar could feed the bacteria in your mouth, it might cause your bad breath to become even worse! Consider putting the gum down and picking up a sugar-free mint instead.

If You Must Chew Gum…

Occasionally chewing sugar-free gum may actually be beneficial to your teeth and gums because it could help boost saliva production, which could help remove food particles from throughout the mouth while neutralizing acid. The ADA has recommended chewing sugar-free gum for about 20 minutes after a meal, as studies indicate that doing so might help reduce the risk of tooth decay.

Some research has indicated that chewing gum that contains xylitol may help to reduce bacteria that could lead to cavities. But the jury is still out on whether this natural sugar substitute provides any extra benefits compared with your regular sugar-free varieties, so dental experts recommend sticking with sugarless gums instead. You can even find products that have the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance, making shopping for your gum a no-brainer.

Now You’re Armed with the Truth!

Simply being aware of the potentially harmful effects of gum, as well as how to avoid them, could help you keep your teeth strong and healthy. Knowledge is power! But nothing can replace a trip to the dentist, so be sure to schedule your annual checkups and cleanings (you get three cleanings per year with every Spirit dental plan!) to be sure your entire mouth is in tiptop shape.


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