Chewing gum is not new; people have been doing it for centuries for all sorts of reasons. American Indians for instance used to chew gum in order to quench their thirst by munching the resin formed on spruce trees. The modern chewing gum was first developed in the 19th century when entrepreneurs recognised the commercial value of spruce resin. By World War 2, it was traded or given away to Europeans by American soldiers.
Today, gum is still popular as can be seen in the massive sales of the most well known manufacturer, Wrigley.
While munching a piece of gum gives the mouth something to do, it has now been recognised that it can do much more than that. Providing of course that consumers use the sugar-free version of gum, dentists and other health professional have realised that simply chewing on a gum based sweet can help teeth in a number of ways.
For example, as well as removing plaque chewing gum can also help in overall oral health and is effective in helping cure disorders such as gingivitis. Gingivitis is a non-destructive periodontal disease which affects tooth structures such as the alveolar bone and the gingiva. Symptoms include inflammation as well as swollen and tender gums. The cause is normally (but exclusively) a build up of plaque resulting from improper cleaning.
Chewing sugar-free gum helps dissolve the plaque, thus removing the bacteria that cause the disorder. And since prevention is often better than cure, regular gum chewing can halt the build up of plaque.
Chewing gum also forces the production of saliva. This means that chewing a sugar-free gum actively remineralises the teeth. It does this by first increasing saliva production tenfold and second by increasing the production of remineralising ions and biocarbonate. Both act as a buffer and neutraliser of the acidic plaque.
Another proven benefit of chewing sugar-free gum is caries prevention. Toothy decay is a major problem with so much sugar in people’s diet from sugary drinks to the vast arrange of sweets and chocolates available. There are sugar-free alternatives that can help but they usually come at the price by using artificial additives, all of which have their own problems.
Preventing early and unnecessary tooth decay should be paramount. So chewing sugar-free gum is a useful way of reducing the risk. In fact, research has found that munching gum can reduce this risk by as much as 40%.
Protective Effects of Saliva
The main ingredient in all this is not the gum per se but its behaviour in increasing saliva production. This is the one of keys to good oral health. But it is at its most protective when gum is chewed at the right time. Acid attack normally occurs about 20 – 30 minutes after eating food. As such, chewing gum for around 20 minutes after eating a meal will therefore help the saliva to do its work.
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