Millions of people around the world constantly chew gum, consuming about 500,000 tons every year.
Habitual gum chewers rely on gum for aesthetics, stress relief, fresh breath, or all of the above but chewing gum habits can have risks when it comes to your dental health. Here are some of the pros and cons of chewing gum.
- Chewing gum can help you lose weight but also cause gassiness. People tend to mindlessly eat when stressed or bored, or when making an effort to quit smoking. Chewing gum takes the place of eating motions which can help satisfy random urges to snack. However, habitually chewing gum can also give you gas. This is from the overproduction of saliva which increases the amount of stomach acid you produce.
- Excessive gum-chewing can cause tooth decay but only if it contains sugar. If you chew gum regularly, stick with a natural sugar-free gum without artificial colors and preservatives such as organic peppermint. The sweeteners and additives found in most commercial chewing gum will make short work of the enamel on your teeth, and that kind of long-term exposure puts you at significant risk for cavities and tooth decay. However, gums that contain xylitol, a sugar substitute, can actually do the opposite and help prevent cavities. Since chewing helps stimulate saliva production, this extra saliva helps clear away food detritus and strengthen your teeth.
- Chewing gum can cause soreness in the jaws. If you suffer from TMJ, experienced jawbone injuries, or habitually grind your teeth, chewing gum can exacerbate this pain.
- Gum does more than just freshen your breath. Relief from bad breath is one of the top reasons people chew gum. A refreshing stick of gum doesn’t just mask the smell of bad breath though: it actually changes your breath’s structure. The extra saliva produced from all that chewing helps kill off the bacteria that cause bad breath, which makes your mouth feel cleaner. However, if you have a serious underlying condition like halitosis (chronic bad breath) you need to address your oral hygiene habits or talk to your dentist about potential underlying conditions.
- Be wary of chewing gum frequently if you wear crowns. Dental crowns are strong enough to chew food, gum included. You may want to refrain from chewing gum while getting used to a new crown, and sticky foods can cause the crown to loosen over time.
Despite these pros and cons of chewing gum, as always, be mindful of your body and recognize the signs to visit the dentist to maintain your best oral health!