Chewing gum: a sticky subject

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December 12th, 2022

Chewing gum may seem like a quick way to freshen breath, but it’s important to choose wisely. Some brands of gum may contain high amounts of sugar while others that are sugar free can actually decrease the risk of cavity-causing bacteria and cavities, overall.

Illustration of teeth within jaw with pink sticky gum being pulled between the top and bottom teeth. An illustration of a pack of gum in a green wrapper in the foreground

Sugar vs. sugarless gum

Gum that has sugar increases the risk of dental decay by providing “fuel” for cavity-causing bacteria to produce acid that can result in cavities.

Sugarless gum is the better choice for oral health. Most sugarless gums use sorbitol, mannitol, aspartame or xylitol to sweeten gum without adding sugar. Xylitol has been scientifically proven to decrease the amount of cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth and to help prevent tooth decay. Look for the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal on your gum as this indicates it has been tested for health and safety.

What are the benefits of chewing gum?

Chewing gum stimulates saliva flow which helps with:

  • Rinsing food particles, especially after a meal.
  • Neutralizing the pH of the oral cavity.
  • Increasing saliva which contains minerals that can fortify tooth enamel to resist acid attacks.
An illustration of two green sticks of gum stacked on top of and crossing one another. Mint leaves behind the gum to indicate the minty taste

Does it matter how long I chew?

Yes! The benefits of gum come after at least 20 minutes of chewing – this is approximately how long it takes for saliva to neutralize the pH of your mouth. People who chew only until the flavor is gone may miss out on the oral health benefits.

Is there anyone who shouldn’t chew gum?

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend chewing gum for children under 4 because it can be a choking hazard.

Additionally, gum chewing should be avoided for anyone with jaw issues or Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorders.

This information in this post is for general educational purposes only and does not warrant or represent any information as related to health as specifically appropriate for you. It is not intended to be medical advice or replace the relationship that you have with your health care providers. You should always seek medical advice on any diagnosis or treatment from a qualified health care provider. The information is provided “as is” without any representations or warranties, express or implied.