Sugar-Free Gum: Good or Bad for Teeth?
We have been chewing gum since the beginning of recorded history. Preserved human tooth imprints indicative of chewing have been found in various pieces of birch bark tar dating back several thousand years. According to historians and anthropologists, the reasons our ancient ancestors chewed on substances similar to modern chewing gum are the same reasons we chew on gum today. We want fresher breath, clean teeth, and we enjoy it.
However, while our ancient ancestors chewed on natural substances, such as bark tar or tree resin, many modern chewing gums are produced with petroleum-based chemicals, full of preservatives, and loaded with sugar or sugar derivatives.
The sugar and sugar derivatives have been particularly harmful to oral and dental health. Sugar is like rocket fuel for the destructive oral bacteria responsible for dental caries, gum disease, and other oral diseases. Considering that the average modern person consumes nearly 20 teaspoons or 82 grams of sugar per day, it’s no wonder that dental caries is so prevalent today.
Flossing and regular visits to Willow Pass Dental Care for checkups are also highly recommended, but brushing is the foundation for an effective dental hygiene routine.
Brushing your teeth is the cornerstone of a healthy dental hygiene routine. We have been taught, told, and exhorted to brush our teeth from the emergence of our very first tooth.
Recent headlines would suggest that sparkling water might not be such a great alternative to just plain old water. But is bubbly, carbonated water really that bad?
With the growing understanding of the ill effects of a sugar-heavy diet on your dental health, many gum manufacturers and consumers have turned to "so-called" sugar-free gums.
Sugar-free gums do not contain sugar. Instead, they are sweetened with either artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols.
So the question is, are sugar-free gums healthier or better for your oral health than conventionally sweetened gums? I will help answer that question.
Sugar-Free Gum: The Good
- No or low-calorie treat
- No sugar
- Fresh breath
- Removes plaque
- Promotes saliva production
- Stimulates the gums
Chewing sugar-free gum can actively and passively clean your teeth. It is demonstrably beneficial for the long-term health of your teeth.
Here’s how it works:
When a person chews gum, there is friction between the gum and the surface of the teeth. This friction can physically scrape off plaque and food debris leading to cleaner dental surfaces.
Furthermore, the act of chewing gum and the presence of sugar alcohols activates the salivary glands where more saliva is produced. As it turns out, producing enough saliva is critical for long-term dental health. While your saliva is 99 percent water, it also contains natural bactericides and dissolved minerals that are crucial for dental enamel.
When saliva production is inadequate, an oral condition known as dry mouth, or xerostomia, can result. Patients with dry mouth are at significantly higher risk of developing cavities and periodontitis.
Finally, chewing gum can be one way to control halitosis or bad breath. Not only do the minty flavors help freshen breath, the act of scraping off plaque and promoting saliva production all help control bacterial populations which, in turn, leads to fresher breath.
Sugar-free gum mechanically removes plaque through friction, freshens breath, promotes saliva production, stimulates the mouth, and most importantly, does not contain sugar.
Sugar-Free Gum: The Bad
- Some artificial sweeteners have a checkered history
- Some sugar-free gums contain preservatives
Given a choice, stick to sugar alcohols, such as sorbitol, mannitol, and especially xylitol. Sugar alcohols are naturally occurring organic compounds that are derived from sugar.
Like sugar, they are white and are sweet to the taste. However, unlike sugars, they contain little to no calories and cannot be metabolized by oral bacteria. This is important since sugar is the primary fuel for the strains of destructive bacteria responsible for dental caries, periodontal disease, and damaging plaque. By eliminating this crucial food source, switching to sugar-free gums can contribute to a healthier mouth.
I also advise our patients to avoid products with artificial sweeteners. While many artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and saccharin are FDA-approved, they have been linked to a variety of ill effects from attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to cancer. Furthermore, some artificial sweeteners contribute to dry mouth. With a much better alternative readily available on the market today in the form of sugar alcohols, it doesn’t make sense to buy sugar-free gums that contain artificial sweeteners.
On Balance: Sugar-free Gums Are Good For Oral Health
On balance sugar-free gums that contain alcohol sugars, such as sorbitol, mannitol, and especially xylitol, is a significant net benefit for oral health. Provided that patients avoid sugar-free gums that use artificial sweeteners or contain preservatives, such as butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), we recommend regular usage of sugar-free gum to freshen breath, ward off dry mouth, or just for fun.
BEST CHEWING GUMS
Without all the synthetic ingredients and artificial flavors.
Glee Gum is a natural chewing gum. It has no artificial flavors. No artificial colors. No artificial sweeteners. No preservatives. Non-GMO verified. Classic Glee Gum is sweetened with Non-GMO cane sugar and brown rice syrup. Sugar-Free Glee Gum is sweetened with 100% xylitol from American birch and beech trees for added dental benefits.
Pur gum and mints are completely sugar and aspartame-free. The gum is made with 100% all-natural flavors. They are also 100% gluten-free and perfect for individuals with celiac or sensitivities to gluten. No animals or animal by-products are used and they are certified Vegan. The gum is Swiss-Made and certified non-GMO (genetically modified organisms). The gum is naturally sweetened with 100% Xylitol, a natural sugar alcohol derived from wood and is just as sweet as sugar. The gum is also 100% nut, peanut, and soy free.
Peelu Peppermint Gum is made with two unique ingredients: xylitol and peelu fibers. Xylitol is a popular ingredient in oral care products because unlike sugar, it doesn't cause tooth decay. The natural peelu fibers also provide for good oral health, as they help keep teeth clean.
Epic is a small, privately-held company founded in 2003. Epic gum contains no simple sugars and is a keto-friendly gum that helps reduce the risk of tooth decay and improve dental health. It is all natural and does not contain aspartame. It is gluten-free as well. The gum is design to reduce the incidence of cavities and gum disease. This gum has a great flavor and contains 45% more Xylitol than many other gum brands. The only con is it loses flavor rather quickly and the gum becomes hard to chew after several minutes.
DR. REZA KHAZAIE