It goes without saying that mastication, or chewing, is an absolute necessity of normal living. As we age, eating becomes one of the only pleasures that most of us can enjoy in almost any setting. All one has to do is to take a look at the plethora of fine public eating establishments in the area to understand how important comfortable mastication is to our society.
Chewing gum has been around for many years, and the act of chewing gum has been criticized by teachers, scolded by parents, and encouraged by dentists. YES! Chewing sugarless gum can reduce the incidence of tooth decay. The process of chewing stimulates production of saliva, which is necessary for digestion and also serves as a buffer to neutralize the pH of our mouths. Since most food contains sugar, which stimulates the production of lactic acid from normal bacteria in our mouths, saliva plays a vital role in cavity prevention. Chewing sugarless gum immediately following eating and continuing for twenty minutes has been proven to aid in the pH neutralization process.
Gum that contains sugar, however, has exactly the opposite effect. It increases the incidence of tooth decay because it allows sugar to be in the mouth for prolonged periods of time, feeding the germs that cause tooth decay. Chewing gum of any kind can also be a problem in people who suffer from muscular headaches or TMJ symptoms of any kind because it stresses the jaw joints in chewing muscles. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, make sure to schedule an appointment at our office in Colorado Springs or by using our online appointment request form.
Is Chewing Gum Good for You?
Parents and teachers may still discourage jawbreakers and bubble gum, but there are indications that gum chewing should no longer be viewed as a ‘guilty pleasure.’ Nor should it be a childhood treat that teens must give up as they grow up.
It’s hard to dispute mounting evidence that gaining a gum-chewing habit may be good not only for your oral health, but for your total well-being. It is also good news for gum manufacturers whose total sales have declined in recent years. There are some rules to follow, however.
There is ample evidence that ancient peoples chewed on tree bark, roots and other non-food items; many cultures around the world had their own favorites. In the mid-19th Century, modern gum made its debut in Mexico as ‘chicle’ and the base for chewing gum evolved then to plastic; today it is a form of artificially flavored and sweetened plastic. Even though prevailing trends today embrace ‘natural’ products and ingredients, there is good reason for gum.
Brush, Floss, Schedule Dental Checkups — and Chew Gum!
Beneficial gum is sugarless, and there is a ‘best time’ to chew in order to reap the benefits for your teeth, mouth and breath. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends chewing for about 20 minutes following a meal. The act of chewing stimulates saliva production, which in turn helps rid the teeth and gums of food particles, harmful bacteria and acids that contribute to decay and oral problems.
Gum chewing also helps to stimulate production of stomach acids, and assists in the breakdown of foods to aid digestion. Its beneficial effects for those who suffer from acid reflux disease, or GERD, were noted a decade ago in a study published by the Journal of Dental Research. Chewing gum for 30 minutes following meals provides welcome relief for this painful condition. The simple act of swallowing that is stimulated by chewing gum may be one reason; another possibility is that harmful stomach acid is diluted or neutralized.
Cognitive task improvement, increased memory and logic skills, a beneficial boost in heart rate, alertness and mood, and some additional physical benefits have also been reported. According to a study at Louisiana State University, regular gum chewing can also be tied to a reduction of cravings, healthier food choices and less snacking. A Mayo Clinic study reports that the physical act of chewing gum burns approximately 11 calories an hour.
Chewing Gum Makes Common
Over the years, the popularity of gum chewing has waxed and waned like the phases of the moon. Probably the best advice for those who enjoy chewing gum is that it can be used as an additional way to ensure good oral health, but it should not take the place of other good practices.
If you don’t enjoy it, there may be no overwhelming reasons to begin chewing. But keeping a pack of pleasantly flavored sugarless gum on hand can offer just the quick ‘pick me up’ that you need after a meal. It’s probably better for you than the after-dinner mint!
On the other hand, if you occasionally like to practice blowing that big bubble, why not?