Gum for cavities

Sugar-free chewing gum has carved out a special place for itself in the purse or glove compartment in recent years. We keep some with us just in case, for fun, or out of necessity.

Scrupulously studied, the little tablets or sweets are under the radar: they would participate in the oral health. Isn’t this statement far-fetched? Not so much!

Here we explain how chewing unsweetened gum can be beneficial to oral health.

Science for Health [1] [2] [3] [4]

If we look only at the studies done on the subject, it has been a hot topic. However, the conclusions all point in the same direction: chewing sugarless gum for 5 to 20 minutes after a meal would decrease the risk of developing cavities. This is true for both adults and children.

Health Canada, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the French Union of Oral Health, the American Dental Association (ADA), all agree that sugar-free chewing gum :

  • Is not cariogenic
  • Enhances salivary flow
  • Restores the pH of the mouth (which slows plaque development)
  • Prevents tooth erosion (due to saliva stimulation)

Chewing, as such stimulates salivation. It is the active agents found in the gum without added sugar that are interesting, as they are preventive.

The preventive properties of polyalcohol sweeteners [5] [6] [7]

The dulciferous taste of sugar-free gum comes from the sweetener used. Generally, these are polyalcohols known as glycol, xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol and many others.

Very low in calories, what we like most about alcoholic sugars, or polyols, is their low fermentability. This means that the bacteria in the mouth will have a harder time digesting them than normal sugar.

The one that gets our attention the most is xylitol. It’s a sweetener derived from 100% plant sources with a naturally refreshing taste reminiscent of spearmint.

Its super powers lie in the fact that cavity-causing bacteria are unable to metabolize it. They will absorb it, but not digest it, which also prevents them from consuming other types of sugars and from proliferating.

Gums sweetened with sorbitol or mannitol are also preventive, but are not anti-caries. Unlike xylitol, these agents are digested by the cariogenic microbiota. The fermentation process is very slow, which slows down the production of harmful acids and the spread of bacteria, but it doesn’t stop it.

To Remember

Two basic points stand out in light of this information:

  1. Chewing sugar-free gum after a meal for 5 to 20 minutes prevents tooth decay and freshens breath.
  2. Opting for a xylitol-based product is THE anti-cavity choice.

However, using a toothbrush, floss and a fluoride paste remain the best allies for superior oral health. Chewing gum can counteract bad breath momentarily, but does not replace tooth brushing…