Chewing Gum: Friend or Foe?

Gum has been used by humans for centuries – originally as sap from tree. These days, however, most chewing gums are made from synthetic rubber.

So, is chewing gum good or bad for you? First let’s look at what chewing gum is.

What is Chewing Gum?

We can all describe the textures of gum, but if we were to guess what’s actually in there, most of us wouldn’t have a clue. Of course, all recipes vary but there are some basic ingredients in all brands of gum.

Gum: This natural, non-digestible ingredient is used to give gum its rubbery, chewy quality.

Resin: Added to the gum to help hold it together.

Fillers: Calcium carbonate or talc are used to give the gum some more texture.

Softeners, Sweeteners, and Preservatives: These are standard ingredients in most supermarket food stuffs – they help make the food taste nicer, for longer, and makes it easier to eat.

Flavourings: This is where different recipes differ – different flavourings are used to create all the different flavours of gum.

In general, all of these ingredients are considered to be safe. The most important thing to remember is that they’re designed to be chewed, not swallowed.

Oral Health and Chewing Gum

You’ve probably heard lots of conflicting things about whether chewing gum is good or bad for your oral health. So, what’s the truth?

Actually, chewing sugar-free gum can help protect your teeth from cavities. However, make sure that it is sugar-free gum you’re chewing, as sugar feeds the bad bacteria in your mouth. This bad bacteria damage your teeth, by producing acid which cause cavities, and they

can damage your gums by producing toxins which cause gum inflammation and can eat away at the bone holding your teeth.

So, sugar-free gum is better for your oral hygiene, but studies have shown that there are some gums which are better for your teeth than others. Gums which are sweetened with xylitol are more effective than other sugar-free gum at reducing tooth decay. Xylitol prevents the growth of the bacteria which causes decay and bad breath.

In fact, xylitol is so good at getting rid of the bacteria that one study showed that it reduced it by 75%. On top of this, chewing gum helps your mouth produce more saliva. Saliva can help wash away harmful sugars and bits of leftover foods – all of which can cause the bad bacteria to grow.

If you chew gum after a meal, it will speed up the production of saliva, helping to wash away the debris of what you’ve eaten. But remember, make sure it’s sugar-free or it could do more harm than good.

Side Effects of Chewing Gum

Of course, as with anything, there are some side effects to chewing gum. Sugar-free gums contain a sugar alcohol to sweeten it, instead of normal sugar. Ingesting too much of this in large quantities can act as a laxative and cause you digestive distress. If you chew gum, make sure you are keeping it to a minimum and not going through several packs a day.

In addition, beware of some sweeteners which may not be great for your health.

We know that gum sweetened with sugar feeds the bad bacteria in your mouth, but did you know it can also cause other health problems like obesity, insulin resistance, and even diabetes. We might not think a small piece of gum can do all of this, but if you’re chewing it fairly regularly it can all build up.

Also, note that the main benefits of chewing gum are in the first 10-15 minutes after eating food, as this period is when you need the pH of your mouth to raise from being acidic to becoming neutral. After 15 minutes, the gum isn’t helping any further.

Gum can also be linked with jaw problems – temporomandibular disorder which can cause pain when you chew. It has also been linked to headaches and migraines. If you’re prone to these, chewing gum regularly could actually make these problems worse. So, that’s why I advise that you only keep chewing gum to a minimum: 10 minutes after a meal.

Other benefits?

Some advocate further benefits to chewing gum like curbing your cravings, burning calories, reduce heartburn, eliminate nausea, lessen depression and even improve memory! There are studies to support these claims, but I suppose it depends on other factors, like the flavourings and how much you are chewing for.

Final Thoughts

Chewing gum can be good for you, provided you’re chewing sugar-free. But it does come with some risks – as too much of anything can. As long as you are keeping chewing to a minimum and making sure it’s sugar -free, it can help keep your pearly whites, well, pearly white!

Interdental Brushes

Want to know how important it is to choose interdental brushes in addition to / or instead of floss?

Maintaining a proper brushing routine is essential, and making sure you are brushing correctly and thoroughly is crucial to your oral hygiene. Well! Dentists also suggest other treatment options to keep your teeth clean, including regular check-ups and treatment options like a ‘scale and polish’.

However, there is a recommended process that can help keep your teeth clean and maintain oral health between dental visits and reduce the need for cleaning sessions at the check-ups; and that is interdental brushing.

Compared to brushing with a regular brush that removes around 60% of dental plaque, an interdental brush is a powerful tool that helps increase the cleaning up to 95%. You should use it every day – as part of your daily oral hygiene routine – to prevent bad breath, tooth decay and gingivitis.

Types of Interdental Brushes

There are two types of interdental brushes:

The L-shaped interdental brush makes a right angle between the head, and the handle helps clean the molars.

The I-shaped interdental brush comes in a stick-like straight shape (as the letter I), which helps clean the front teeth.

An interdental brush has a small head with bristles seized on by wire, which is enough to reach the spaces from easy to hard. There is a descending order of the arranged hairs with numerous sizes for the best selection.

These brushes usually have unique shapes or short handles for a secure grip and are intended to be moved gently between teeth. You can use interdental brushes many times and clean them as your regular toothbrush. Replace them when the brush tip is bent or hair is worn.

Best for Most People

Most people can use interdental brushes and benefit from them. Moreso, are the following categories:

People with braces: Usually, flossing is impossible for people with fixed braces because it can get stuck in the archwire and bracket. However, the interdental brushes are used to remove plaque and food from around the edges of the brackets and between teeth.

People having limited mobility: Individuals with limited mobility or those suffering from joint issues can find these brushes easy to use, mainly while cleaning the front teeth. The brushes help clean the spaces in between gums, implants, bridges, and dentures.

Individuals who do not like flossing: Numerous people do not prefer flossing because they find it demanding or take them longer to pass the thread through every tooth gap, particularly the gaps between molars. Therefore, interdental brushes can be a better option. Besides, it is easy to use as well!

Individuals with spaces between teeth: If you have significant gaps between teeth, your teeth surfaces are not even, or your gums are receding, it isn’t easy to clean properly with floss. In such cases, interdental brushes are highly effective in removing food debris and plaque.

Thorough Oral Hygiene

Dental floss, toothpaste and toothbrushes are tools that help support regular oral hygiene. But is it enough to ensure complete oral hygiene?

Well! Floss is used for cleaning inbetween the teeth, and is effective for tight contacts. However, it can easily damage your gums, if you do not follow the correct method. Be careful of pushing down the floss hard on the gums, as this would push plaque under the gums, which will in turn swell up and be uncomfortable for at least one day.

Usually, flossing is effective in cleaning the front teeth. There are different shapes and positions of the back teeth, making it demanding to clean with floss.

The interdental brushes are designed to push through the interdental gap to remove food debris and plaque; and prevent gum disease or decay. The brush head is shaped to allow quick access between grooves and gaps to clean correctly, without any damage.

Please Note

Note the following if you are going to use the interdental brush for the first time:

  • Brush your teeth with a regular toothbrush and toothpaste.
  • Choose the appropriate interdental brush size: use the smallest size if you are a beginner.
  • Point this brush at the space between teeth, keeping its handle perpendicular to the teeth, brushing gently to evade pressing on the gums and teeth.
  • Hold its handle, push the head gently through the gap to the other side, and then draw out slowly.
  • Don’t forget to clean the brush and keep it in a dry place.

As a beginner, your gums can hurt and bleed when you try to remove plaque on the teeth. It can be because you applied pressure or choose the wrong size. With time, the bleeding will reduce, and you will feel an improvement in the gums’ health.

The Verdict

Together with regular toothbrushing, toothpaste and mouthwash, the interdental brush is an ideal tool that helps bring complete oral cleaning. Now, these brushes are sold in various places. You can buy them online or at your local supermarket. However, you may wish to consult your dentist or dental hygienist first on the most appropriate type and size specific for your teeth.