Chewing Sugarless Gum Can Prevent Tooth Decay

Chewing sugarless gum can prevent tooth decay

Saliva helps weaken cavity-causing acids and rinses food particles from the mouth. Chewing gum also stimulates salivary flow.

The increased flow adds calcium and phosphate to the saliva, which help strengthen tooth enamel. Chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after meals can help prevent tooth decay.

Saliva has many different components which help to maintain health. Two of the components that help prevent cavities are buffers, and dissolved minerals.

Bacteria produce cavities because they secrete acid as a by product of consuming sugar that enters the mouth. The less sugar, the less acid. The more sugar the more cavity producing acid. Saliva has a complex “buffer” system. Bicarbonate is the major buffering component and phosphate composes the rest of the buffering activity. This system takes the acid and neutralizes it, so it is not destructive to tooth enamel. When there is a disease that reduces saliva flow, a patient who has this problem has cavities that develop surprisingly quickly.

When food is eaten, the body recognizes this by smell and taste and responds by increasing saliva flow from the two major types of glands in the mouth the parotid gland and the submandibular gland. Saliva is produced with components that start pre-digesting food and make the process of digestion easier. The increased quantity of buffer that is also released rapidly neutralizes acid and reduces the damage caused by bacterial acids.

Saliva also contains minerals like calcium. When acid starts cavities, the molecules of calcium in the tooth are loosened and leave the tooth enamel matrix. Saliva contains a “super saturated” solution of calcium and phosphate. This means that the calcium in the saliva readily jumps into the tooth where it is missing these minerals. The slight cavities actually “remineralize” the tooth and repair the “incipient” tooth decay damage.

When you chew gum, the body thinks the gum is food, and as a result it starts the increased flow of saliva. The benefit of gum chewing for a short while is to neutralize bacterial acid and to remineralize any damaged tooth structure. Of course, chewing gum for longer periods of time has a reduced benefit, since the body no longer recognizes the food stimulus. Over chewing can then damage teeth through trauma. Gum recession and tooth fractures can result. So chew gum for short periods of time to inherit the benefits and not the drawbacks.

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