Yes. If you can’t brush after eating, popping a piece of sugar-free gum is the next best thing to maintain a healthy mouth. “Chewing gum stimulates saliva, and saliva is a neutralizing agent for the acids caused by bacteria,” says Dr. J. Stuart Oglesby, a practicing dentist in Williamsburg, Va.
That extra saliva washes away leftover food particles that the bacteria feed on. It also rinses away acid that the bacteria excrete after eating. Acid is enemy No. 1 when it comes to healthy teeth because it wears away the enamel, or your tooth’s protective outer coating, causing cavities. Once tooth enamel is gone, it’s impossible to replace.
While chewing sugary gum also produces saliva, it causes more harm than good because the sugar feeds the bacteria, which leads to more acid. On the flip side, numerous studies have shown that chewing sugar-free gum with the sweeteners xylitol and sorbitol actually inhibits the growth of bacteria that contributes to tooth decay.