‘The surprising benefits of chewing gum – and it’s just not fresh breath’

Aug 24, 2020
A dental expert looks into the surprising benefits of chewing sugar-free gum regularly. Source: Getty.

Many of us were brought up to think that chewing gum is rude and a bad habit — in fact, new YouGov research funded by The Wrigley Extra Oral Healthcare Program) found three-quarters of Australian adults have been warned against chewing gum, with almost a third (29 per cent) of Australian adults told as children that chewing gum was rude and nearly a quarter (24 per cent) told it was bad for your teeth.

But is chewing gum actually bad for you? As a dentist, I consider chewing sugar-free gum a healthy habit. It adds to our oral hygiene during the day when we may not necessarily have a toothbrush and floss with us. Chewing sugarfree gum creates a healthy environment for our teeth — I chew after my morning coffee and after lunch each day.

So, how can chewing sugar-free gum help your teeth? Chewing sugar-free gum works to stimulate saliva flow, which clears food particles and protects the teeth by neutralising any acidity in your meal. It’s important to chew for at least 20 minutes as this has been shown to help maintain the enamel on your teeth.

Meanwhile, a recent scientific literature review by King’s College in Queensland also found chewing sugar-free gum could help reduce the incidence and growth of dental caries (tooth decay) by up to 28 per cent.

A third of Australian adults have untreated tooth decay. This preventable problem is one of Australia’s most common oral health problems and is on the rise among Australian adults and children. This is anticipated to get worse as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with many Australians avoiding the dentist, people tightening the purse strings and spending less on their health and more people stuck at home eating sugary foods more regularly.

And if you’re worried about sugar intake, there’s no need to. A quarter (25 per cent) of Australian adults avoid chewing gum because they believe it contains sugar — this isn’t true. In fact, 93 per cent of gum available in Australia is sugarfree. I recommend choosing gum that displays the Australian Dental Association or FDI World Dental Federation logos on the back of the pack.

For good oral health, there are five steps I recommend to my patients:

  1. Brush twice daily
  2. Floss daily
  3. Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  4. Chew sugar-free gum after eating, drinking or on the go
  5. Get a regular checkup from your dentist — ideally, aim for every six months.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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What are your thoughts on this? Do you chew gum often?

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