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It is a question that has been going around for years now – is chewing gum good for your teeth? Adverts by leading manufacturers have long made claims about the benefits of gum, whilst many people have remained sceptical. So just what is the truth? A recent article published by the UK’s Oral Health Foundation finally presents the facts.
In recent decades, huge progress has been made in both preventative dental care and also in education. People young and old now have a much better chance of maintaining healthy teeth throughout their lives. However, the problem of tooth decay at a worldwide level is now bigger than ever. According to the World Health Organisation, it ranks as the fourth most expensive global condition to treat. This is particularly concerning given how easy the problem can be prevented. Even with developments over recent years, 60-90% of children worldwide and almost all adults continue to suffer from tooth decay.
Tooth decay is costing the NHS millions every year. However, substantial savings could be made with very simple changes to lifestyle. Research conducted in 2016 concluded that the NHS could save an incredible £8.2 million per annum if all twelve-year-olds in the UK were to chew more sugar-free gum. The research was conducted by the York Health Economics Consortium and Peninsula Dental School, Plymouth University. It represented an initial exploration into the potential cost savings that the chewing of sugar-free gum could bring. Although the research was funded by Wrigley, it is widely regarded as being the first and most in-depth scientific research into the issue of its kind.
“The study represents a solid and substantial approach to the accurate calculation of cost savings in industrial countries that would arise from increasing sugar-free gum consumption,” said Professor Reinhard Rychlik, MA MD, PhD, PhD, Director of the IfEG and the study’s lead author. “Chewing sugar-free gum as a preventive measure for tooth decay has the potential to deliver significant dental care cost savings worldwide.”
So just how does chewing gum every day help fight tooth decay? Tooth decay is caused by the formation of acid in our mouths. These acids attack the protective surface of our teeth. This acid build-up is a natural occurrence and is caused by almost everything we eat. However, problems arise when we eat sugar frequently or in large amounts. The problem is also caused when food particles remain in the teeth after eating. This harbours and provides a perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria which also creates more acid. This causes our teeth to have prolonged exposure to acid, which is when problems begin to arise.
Chewing sugar-free gum increases the production of saliva. This can help wash away food particles and can help to restore optimum plaque pH levels faster. These benefits can offset the risk of long term acid exposure, helping to prevent dental cavities and leading to potentially major cost savings for health-care systems.
The oral care benefits of chewing sugar-free gum are currently recognised by regulatory bodies, including the European Commission and some national governments, by the FDI World Dental Federation and nearly 20 national dental associations worldwide including the Oral Health Foundation in the UK.
It is important to remember that chewing gum will only help prevent tooth decay as part of a healthy oral hygiene regime. That includes brushing twice a day, maintaining a reasonable sugar intake and avoiding sugary snacks between meals. It is also worth bearing in mind that gum should be chewed in moderation for short periods after meals rather than continuously, with a growing body of scientific evidence indicating that excess gum chewing can cause Tempromandibular (TMJ) joint dysfunction syndrome.
You should also ensure that you have regular checkups as recommended by your dentist and seek their advice if you have any questions concerning your teeth.
Here at Wickersley Dental & Implant Clinic, we focus on preventative dentistry. Our patients can enjoy the very best in care from our experienced team, all in a caring and relaxed environment. To book an appointment now or enquire about becoming a member, call us on Wickersley 01709 543033 now or click here to contact us online.
Based on an original article by the Oral Health Foundation https://www.dentalhealth.org/news/details/963