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The benefits of chewing sugar-free gum to oral health: New product brings them to the preventive visit

Feb. 15, 2017
Even if they recall nothing else, patients often remember the polishing part of their appointments—particularly if the prophy paste was unpleasant in taste or texture. A new prophy paste product from Young and Wrigley incorporates some familiar gum flavors with a smooth, pleasant consistency, and gives hygienists the opportunity to promote a proven home-care practice.  

Even if they recall nothing else, patients often remember the polishing part of their appointments—particularly if the prophy paste was unpleasant in taste or texture. A new prophy paste product from Young and Wrigley incorporates some familiar gum flavors with a smooth, pleasant consistency, and gives hygienists the opportunity to promote a proven home-care practice.

Oral health is important to everyone in your practice. For dental practitioners, oral health is not only healthy, functioning dentition and oral structures, but it is an integral component of total body health. We know the importance of the oral-systemic link. Properly maintained teeth will help keep our bodies healthy by reducing inflammation due to buildup of plaque acids and biofilm. Reducing oral inflammation involves proper oral brushing, flossing, rinsing, chewing sugar-free gum and visiting a dental practice for regular health and wellness visits. (1) Tackling small issues before they become large ones, restoring function to damaged teeth, and guiding the patient towards a healthy periodontal environment maintain a functional oral environment. Our patients may have heard of the oral-systemic link, but their focus is to have a pain-free dental visit.

Most patients receive preventive services (the “prophy”) after their comprehensive evaluation when they first visit the dentist. This visit may be their most memorable. When patients think of their preventive visit, the first thing that comes to mind is the polishing experience. Tooth polishing seems to be a memory from childhood. Everyone remembers getting their teeth polished—possibly due to the choice of flavors or the gritty consistency of some pastes, or merely because it signaled the end of the visit. During these preventive wellness visits, we perform many other important diagnostic and preventative treatments, including comprehensive oral examinations, periodontal probing, and removal of accretions and deposits, but the patients mainly remember the polishing.

To enrich the pleasant memory of the preventive visit, Young teamed up with Wrigley to create an enhanced oral care experience. Wrigley's Orbit Prophy Paste and Gum packs contain a single dose of prophy paste along with a piece of corresponding Orbit sugarfree gum. The prophy paste, which has a very smooth, splatter-free consistency, effectively removes stain and is easily rinsed away. It is available in three flavors, Peppermint, Spearmint and Bubblemint. Using Wrigley's Orbit Prophy Paste, with its highly specific flavor and scent, will flow into a great conversation about the benefits of chewing gum in addition to the recommended flossing, brushing, and rinsing regimen. Following up the preventive visit with a piece of gum to take home is a valuable tool. Our practice goal is to have satisfied patients with healthy dentition who will in turn refer more patients for oral care.

Using Wrigley's Orbit Prophy Paste and Gum packs is an exciting, simple way to be able to include a conversation with your patients about the health benefits of chewing sugar-free gum. There are many benefits to chewing gum. Here are several key ones:

  • Chewing sugar-free gum will freshen breath while increasing salivary flow, cleansing the teeth naturally on the go, but we must advise patients that chewing gum is not a replacement for the daily biofilm control of proper brushing, flossing, and rinsing. The action of chewing stimulates salivary production, giving a protective coat to the teeth. The foods we eat, including citrus, tomato products, wine, coffee, energy drinks, soda, and other highly acidic foods cause daily (maybe hourly) acid assaults on our teeth. We cannot control everything our patients eat, but we can suggest they use sugar-free gum.
  • Chewing sugar-free gum will help neutralize plaque acids and increase the pH of the oral environment due to salivary stimulation. (2) With the increase in saliva, more calcium and phosphate ions are released, allowing for an increase in teeth mineralization. (3)
  • Chewing sugar-free gum will be a component in decreasing halitosis. Patients are concerned with halitosis. Some attribute it to the time between dental “cleanings,” but the main culprit may be retained interdental plaque, calculus, or bacteria hidden between the tongue papillae—in other words, improper oral hygiene. Other reasons for halitosis include dietary products (e.g., food debris remaining between teeth), beverages, tobacco products, medications, and infections. By helping to stimulate saliva flow, chewing sugar-free gum can help clean your teeth by removing the debris and plaque. Discussing halitosis with our patients will guide them to another conversation about addressing the primary reason for their halitosis. (4)
  • Chewing sugar-free gum helps stimulate saliva flow, which is beneficial for patients with xerostomia. Many dental practices have many patients who exhibit xerostomia. Etiologies of xerostomia include a large array of medications, radiation therapy, menopause, smoking, or dehydration. Xerostomia may cause a variety of dental concerns including increased susceptibility to dental caries, oral candidiasis, removable prosthetic issues, halitosis, as well as increasing the risk of gingivitis, which all negatively affect the patient’s quality of life. Additionally, xerostomia may affect patients’ dietary habits, speech, taste, and their tolerance to dental prosthesis. (5) Chewing gum will increase salivary flow. Daily output of saliva from our salivary glands is usually 500 ml to 1,500 ml. The basal (resting) saliva is 0.4 ml per minute. Chewing gum, or stimulated salivary flow, increases the production to 1 ml to 2 ml per minute.
  • Other great benefits of chewing sugar-free gum include increased memory and improved wakefulness as shown in a 2012 study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. (6) All that from a piece of sugarfree gum!

We know oral health care is important to our patients and chewing gum is part of regular oral hygiene, in association with brushing, flossing, and rinsing. What better way to bring home oral health satisfaction than to give patients another very portable tool like chewing sugar-free gum that they can use to protect their teeth for a lifetime.

1. Barnett ML. The oral-systemic disease connection: an update for the practicing dentist. J Am Dent Assoc. 2006;137 Suppl:5S-6S.
2. Fröhlich S, Maiwald HJ, Flowerdew G. Effect of gum chewing on the pH of dental plaque. J Clin Dent. 1992;3(3):75-8.
3. A Symposium on the Endogenous Benefits of Saliva in Oral Health. March 21, 1989. LSU School of Dentistry, New Orleans, LA. Compend Suppl. 1989;(13):S448-S488.
4. Shiyao L, Yamei X, Deyu H. Anti-halitosis effect of sugar-free chewing gum. Hua Xi Kou Qiang Yi Xue Za Zhi. 2015;33(2):166-8.
5. Guggenheimer J, Moore PA. Xerostomia: etiology, recognition and treatment. J Am Dent Assoc. 2003;134(1):61-9; quiz 118-9.
6. Johnson AJ, Miles C, Haddrell B, Harrison E, Osborne L, Wilson N, Jenks R. The effect of chewing gum on physiological and self-rated measures of alertness and daytime sleepiness. Physiol Behav. 2012;105(3):815-20.

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS, is a leading dental clinician, author, international educator, and consultant who currently practices dentistry in Lincolnwood, Illinois. Dr. Doniger is an avid researcher, frequently contributing to an array of dental publications on a variety of topics. She works with the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Program. All opinions and facts gathered are her own. Please free to contact Dr. Doniger at