Contrary to conventional wisdom, there are benefits to chewing gum. The actual act of chewing boosts the flow of saliva in the mouth, which can help wash away acids and bacteria produced in the mouth when food is broken down. The more acidic the environment in the mouth, the more likely there will be erosion of the tooth enamel, which can cause cavities.
Here’s the caveat: The gum should be sugarless. Gum that contains sugar can actually contribute to tooth decay, as it increases the exposure of the teeth to sugars. The problem with that is bacteria feed on sugars, so the more sugars you deposit on the teeth, the more you encourage the proliferation of cavity-causing bacteria.
Chewing sugarless gum for 15-20 minutes following a meal when you can’t immediately brush and floss can help to prevent damage to the tooth enamel. And chewing gum should never replace good oral hygiene habits such as brushing and flossing! It’s simply an added precaution that can be taken to minimize the potential damage acids can cause to the teeth.
So, the next time you have a meal and don’t have a toothbrush to hand, reach for a pack of sugar-free gum. Just be sure it is actually sugarless, and be sure to brush as soon as you can.