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Is chewing gum good or bad for my teeth?

By: Dr. Debra Gray King

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Chewing sugarless gum is actually good for your teeth. It may even be the next best alternative to brushing when you can’t get to a toothbrush. But sugared gum is an absolute no-no because it coats the teeth with cavity-causing sugars.

Here’s why chewing sugarless gum is good: First, it mechanically cleans the surfaces of your teeth as you chew. Remember playing with Silly Putty as a kid, pressing it against newspaper to peel off the ink image onto the putty? That’s a lot like how sugarless gum works. By repeatedly pressing up against your teeth and then releasing, the gum pulls off and absorbs some of the residual food buildup on your teeth. Plus, gum has been proven to reduce plaque.

Second, gum-chewing promotes a constant flow of saliva, which has antibacterial components that fight decay-causing bacteria. Saliva contains buffers that neutralize and flush away sugars, food debris and acids. Plus, saliva is full of minerals that actually help rebuild parts of your teeth that have been attacked by acid. So gum-chewing encourages re-mineralization of teeth to keep them strong.

Finally, gum-chewing freshens breath by reducing bacteria in the mouth, and whitens teeth by removing stains. What’s more, some people enjoy chomping in order to relieve stress, avoid eating unhealthy foods or keep from chewing on a pencil or ice. But like most things, it’s best to do in moderation. Constant chewing can cause jaw fatigue.

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Dr. Debra Gray King is a dentist with the Atlanta Center for Cosmetic Dentistry.

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