Despite the seemingly never-ending list of foods that cause cavities, there are a few examples of foods that do benefit your teeth: cheese, nuts, and leafy greens among them. What about chewing gum? Some would argue it’s not exactly a food, but the question of whether it’s good for you us something I’ve wondered. It turns out, as one dental equipment company writes, that gum can be good for your teeth; but there’s a catch.
When Chewing Gum is Good for You
The answer to the question of whether chewing gum is good for you depends on the ingredients.
What goes into chewing gum has changed drastically over the years. Originally, gum was derived mainly from chiclet, a sap-like substance harvested from the Mayan Riviera region of Mexico. In the 20th century, companies started adding sugar to make the product more appealing (and addictive) and many switched from natural chiclet to artificial, rubber-like substances.
If you’ve ever been to the dentist, you’re well aware of the dangers sugar poses to your teeth. The starchy residue it leaves on your teeth is what fuels the growth of plaque-causing bacteria that leads to tooth decay. But there are sweeteners that don’t have this effect, like Xylitol.
Xylitol is a naturally-occurring compound that has actually been shown to prevent tooth decay. How? As this dental equipment company writes, Xylitol fights bacteria by “disrupting their energy production processes, leading to futile energy cycle and cell death.”
In other words, gum sweetened with Xylitol can kill off plaque-causing bacteria.
Of course, chewing gum is no substitute for regular brushing and flossing. However, it can be used as a way of preventing bacteria at times when you can’t step out to brush your teeth, like the short window of time between meetings at the office.
My next question was going to be whether the action of chewing gum is good for your jaw which seems to be debateable. I was not able to find any scientific answers on this question – just a ridiculous Reddit thread and a topic on Quora.
Still, it’s interesting to know that what was once considered a bad habit can actually be good for your teeth, in some circumstances.
Another interesting note I came across while looking into this topic is the fact that chewing gum sales have been in steep decline for some time now. Twenty years from now, kids might not even know what gum is.