Chewing gum is one of those controversial products that people either love or hate. For some, it’s considered low brow and rude to chew gum, while to others it’s simply an enjoyable way to freshen your breath or distract yourself from that cabinet of sweets calling your name after dinner. But while many liken even sugar-free gum to candy, sugarless gum can be a useful tool in helping to maintain excellent oral health.
Recently, a study conducted by the Institute of Empirical Health Economics and published in the American Journal of Dentistry revealed that upping your consumption of chewing gum by just one piece per day could save approximately $4.1 billion dollars a year in tooth decay related costs, with $2.07 billion of that in the United States alone. According to Dr. Stephen Hill of Allen, Texas, this is because chewing sugarless gum increases the flow of saliva as you chew, helping to neutralize the acid left behind by the bacteria in your mouth.
"The excess saliva produced by sugarless gum helps keep the teeth clean, preventing the breakdown of tooth enamel, which leads to tooth decay and cavities," said Hill. "In fact, increasing your saliva flow can even strengthen your teeth, because saliva contains phosphates and calcium which work to reinforce enamel."
The study used data from 25 different countries around the globe to calculate both the cost of tooth decay in each nation, as well as the potential savings that chewing sugarless gum could accrue over time. According to the study, a staggering 60 percent of all dental care costs are directly related to cavities, with 90 percent of all adults possessing at least one cavity.
Though the study was funded by chewing gum manufacturer Wrigley, the American Dental Association backs the study’s findings, stating that chewing one piece of sugarless gum for just 20 minutes following a meal can reduce your risk for cavities if used in conjunction with regular flossing and brushing.
Hill believes this study could be a huge boon to people who love chewing gum but maybe aren’t as meticulous with their oral health care as they could be.
"Chewing gum is a fun way to take care of your teeth," said Hill "It kind of feels like you’re having something you shouldn’t be, but in reality, you’re actually strengthening your teeth. You still need to take care of your teeth the old-fashioned way, but it’s always nice to find out there are things you can have for a change, instead of finding out there are more things you shouldn’t be having."