Benefits of chewing sugar-free gum: More than just fresh breath

A 2015 study published in PLoS ONE found that chewing sugar-free gum for 10 minutes could remove up to 100 million bacteria from the mouth. Researchers hope to develop a gum that specifically targets pathogenic bacteria.

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A 2015 study published in PLoS ONE found that chewing sugar-free gum for 10 minutes could remove up to 100 million bacteria from the mouth. Researchers hope to develop a gum that specifically targets pathogenic bacteria.

Clinical studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following meals can help prevent tooth decay. (1) In fact, for the sixth consecutive year, in October 2015, the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) and the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company collaborated during National Dental Hygiene Month. They worked together through the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Program to increase public awareness about the importance of maintaining good oral health. (2, 3) Studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum reduces the quantity and development of plaque, relieves the symptoms of dry mouth, neutralizes acids, remineralizes tooth enamel, and may help reduce the incidence of tooth decay. (4) However, there is more to the story.

According to a 2015 study published in the journal PLoS ONE, chewing gum for up to 10 minutes can remove 100 million bacteria, or 10% of the microbial load in saliva. (5) It is the authors’ hope that these findings may promote the development of chewing gum that selectively removes specific disease-related bacteria from the human oral cavity, for instance by using porous-type calcium carbonate (PCC). That is based on the results of a study that suggests that chewing gum containing PCC “may be able to exclude oral bacteria, including cariogenic and periodontopathic bacteria, for prevention of dental caries and periodontal disease.” (6)

READ MORE | Refreshing the oral care routine with sugar-free gum

Very recently, it was shown that sugar-free gum could not only reduce oral health problems, but also save the UK National Health Service $9 million a year on dental treatments. (7) While it is important to prevent and treat disease, it must be economically feasible for programs to deliver preventive and therapeutic programs. This study demonstrates the potential savings on dental care expenditure from increased chewing of sugar-free gum. It also recognizes the increasing importance of financial considerations in the decision-making process on oral health interventions. (7) The report emphasizes the impact of policies that encourage the use of sugar-free gum could have on dental care expenditure of UK dental health-care systems. There was a declaration by the authors that the study and writing support for the manuscript were funded by Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme. However, previous research appears to support the current report. The results appear dramatic. According to the report, if all 12-year-olds in the United Kingdom chewed a piece of sugar-free gum twice every day, it could reduce the cost of up to $3 million in dental treatments and checkups. Chewing sugar-free gum three times a day could lower costs up to $9 million.

READ MORE | New patent on synthetic molecules brings researchers closer to new periodontitis treatment

While continued oral hygiene care is necessary to maintain health, chewing gum is an easy and effective way to increase saliva flow and remove bacteria from the mouth. As with all recommendations, it is important to assess any risk that chewing gum may pose, such as TMJ problems or muscle fatigue due to overuse of the jaw muscles. On the bright side, chewing gum may increase alertness. (8)


Editor's note: This article originally appeared in RDH eVillage Focus. Our editorial team would be happy to deliver content like this to your inbox twice a month. Just let us know by subscribing here.


References
1. Chewing Gum to Prevent Cavities. MouthHealthy.org. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/c/chewing-gum/. Accessed March 2, 2016.
2. National Dental Hygiene Month 2015. ADHA website. http://www.adha.org/national-dental-hygiene-month. Accessed March 2, 2016.
3. Home page. Wrigley Oral Healthcare Program web site. http://wrigleyoralhealth.com/. Accessed March 2, 2016.
4. Explore Research. Wrigley Oral Healthcare Program web site. http://wrigleyoralhealth.com/chew-smart/research-gallery. Accessed March 2, 2016.
5. Wessel SW, van der Mei HC, Morando D, et al. Quantification and qualification of bacteria trapped in chewed gum. PLoS One. 2015 Jan 20;10(1):e0117191. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0117191.
6. Yamanaka A, Saeki Y, Seki T, Kato T, Okuda K. Adsorption of oral bacteria to porous type calcium carbonate. Bull Tokyo Dent Coll. 2000;41(3):123–126.
7. Claxton L, Taylor M, Kay E. Oral health promotion: the economic benefits to the NHS of increased use of sugarfree gum in the UK. Br Dent J. 2016;220(3):121-127.
8. Smith A. Effects of chewing gum on mood, learning, memory and performance of an intelligence test. Nutr Neurosci. 2009;12(2):81-8. doi: 10.1179/147683009X423247.


Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS, is editorial director of RDH eVillage Focus.

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