Chewing sugarfree gum after eating or drinking is a valuable tool that can help support good oral hygiene at times where patients don’t have immediate access to more traditional oral care techniques.
As our lifestyles are changing, our eating habits are also evolving according to the website www.gov.uk. Eating on-the-go is becoming more predominant and popular in younger urban populations who consume on average three snacks per day the website www5.agr.gc.ca claims, and the more snacking occasions there are, the more teeth can come under attack.
Sugarfree gum can be easily incorporated into these new lifestyles, helping to make a difference to patients’ efforts to decrease their risk of tooth decay. The important role of sugarfree gum in oral care is widely recognised and accepted by experts, dental associations and regulatory authorities around the world including the Oral Health Foundation, the World Dental Federation and the European Commission.
In 2010, the European Commission (EC) approved five oral health claims for sugarfree chewing gum, one of the few food categories to gain such recognition. EC claims include three claims for general function (neutralisation of plaque acids, maintenance of tooth mineralisation, reduction of oral dryness) and two claims for disease risk reduction related to dental caries (neutralisation of plaque acids, reduction of tooth demineralisation).
Sugarfree gum benefits
The benefits linked to chewing sugarfree gum are multifaceted; it helps prevent the development of dental caries by removing food debris, helps neutralise plaque acids and helps enhance tooth remineralisation (Dawes and Macpherson, 1992; Hein, Soparkar and Quigley, 1961; Leach, Lee and Edgar, 1989) (chewing sugarfree gum stimulates the salivary glands, producing a strong flow of stimulated saliva). Recent research also shows that chewing sugarfree gum can improve people’s general wellbeing. Studies have revealed that 35% of 12-year-olds reported being too embarrassed to smile or laugh due to the condition of their teeth according to the Child Dental Health Survey. Therefore, by improving patients’ oral health, sugarfree gum could contribute to increasing patients’ confidence, and in particular adolescent patients.
The potential benefits of sugarfree gum span beyond individual patient care. Research published in the British Dental Journal in February 2016 revealed that up to £8.2 million of costs to the NHS could be saved – the equivalent to 364,000 dental check-ups – if 12-year-olds across the UK were to increase their chewing of sugarfree gum as part of a good oral health routine to help prevent tooth decay (Claxton, Taylor and Kay, 2016).
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Claxton L, Taylor M and Kay E (2016) Oral Health Promotion: The Economic Benefits of Sugarfree Gum in the UK. BDJ Volume 220, No. 3
Dawes C and Macpherson LM (1992) Effects of nine different chewing-gums and lozenges on salivary flow rate and pH. Caries Res 26: 176-82
Hein JW, Soparkar PM and Quigley GA (1961) Changes in plaque pH following gum chewing and tooth brushing. J Dent Res 40: 753-4
Leach SA, Lee GT and Edgar WM (1989) Remineralization of artificial caries-like lesions in human enamel in situ by chewing sorbitol gum. J Dent Res 68: 1064-8