You’ve probably heard that gum can prevent cavities, but is it actually true? Well, the latest research paper from across the pond shows that it may be more accurate than you think. In this article, we’ll cover the key findings of the study and also look at the future of sugar-free gum.
As always, we’re going to cover things from an objective angle and provide all the facts so that you can take an informed stance and perhaps even try gum out for yourself. Let’s get right into the sugar-free details!
King’s College London recently published a study in the Journal of Dental Research: Clinical & Translational Research. The data they released last month shows that sugar-free gum may, in fact, be effective at reducing the development of cavities in both children and adults.
The researchers found that the chewing of the gum can work as a preventative measure that will reduce the odds of a cavity developing in the first place. If a cavity is already present then chewing the gum can halt the progression so that the situation doesn’t worsen.
When the study first started out, the end-goal was to determine whether or not adults and children who chewed the sugar-free gum would have lower rates of cavities compared to individuals who used alternatives such as tablets, candies, or lozenges.
The report utilized half a century’s worth of published studies to ensure that the data would be concrete. It was also headed by an all-star team, so you can be sure that the study is as solid as a rock.
The authors — consisting of seven Faculty of Dentistry in the Oral & Craniofacial Sciences department at King’s College London — found a total of 12 studies that covered the benefits of sugar-free gum in the context of child and adult cavities.
After digging through those studies, they came to the conclusion that sugar-free gum can indeed reduce the occurrence of cavities. The authors found that it had a preventative fraction of 28% after running the numbers.
It’s important to note that there was a specific type of gum used for eight of the clinical trials that were included in the study: xylitol. The preventative fraction was higher in the studies using xylitol exclusively, coming out at 33% which is superior to the aforementioned 28% average.
The American Dental Association defines sugar-free gum as any gum that contains less than half a gram of sugar for each serving. That being said, you shouldn’t notice much of a difference since xylitol works as a substitute sweetener.
How It Works
One of the main mechanisms that allow sugar-free gum to be effective at preventing the development of cavities is something that we already have: saliva. When you chew gum, you stimulate the production of saliva.
Studies show that chewing gum can stimulate the rate of salivary flow by a factor of 10 to 12 in comparison to the baseline rate. The saliva will essentially work as a natural barrier that can keep your teeth safe.
According to the ADA, saliva can protect the teeth from acidic beverages that would otherwise compromise your enamel. Additionally, saliva tends to clear out acid as you swallow it. Sugar-free gum is also an effective delivery system for antibacterial agents such as xylitol.
Dr. Mike Dodds — the lead oral health scientist at the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Program which gave out the grant for this study — noted that we can’t rely solely on brushing, especially as eating behaviors continue to evolve in our dynamic societies.
He went on, noting that this study is a wake-up call reminding us that other tactics such as the use of sugar-free gum can complement oral health when used as a companion to brushing, flossing, and other common hygiene routines.
The use of sugar-free gum to maintain oral health has actually been widely accepted for quite some time now. It’s commonly utilized to prevent the development of periodontitis — an inflammation of the tissue around the teeth.
This is essential since periodontitis can lead to tooth loss if left untreated as it gradually shrinks the gums that hold your teeth in place. As a matter of fact, even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has endorsed sugar-free gum as an effective way to maintain good oral health.
Dr. Dodds notes that the findings in this study are so key because they can potentially improve dental health on a public scale in both developing and developed nations. But that begs the question, where do we go from here?
If you’re wondering whether the researchers plan on continuing down the path of this rabbit hole to uncover more secrets of gum and its impact on the development of cavities, you’ll be happy to know that there are plans for further research.
One of the authors of the study, Professor Avjit Banerjee, said that they are going to delve deeper in an effort to gauge how viable it would be to implement this preventative measure in the context of public health.
In the meantime, you can look at the ADA’s list of approved sugar-free chewing gum products. This should serve as a good guide when picking between various brands. With the holidays around the corner, you could also use it to choose gifts for friends and family.
As you can see, evidence continues to favor the long-running concept of using sugar-free gum to combat various oral health problems such as cavities and periodontitis. It’s exciting to think of what future research may reveal.
For those who don’t have the patience needed to wait around while these professors conduct their thorough research, you can start chewing sugar-free gum today and see the results for yourself.
That’s all for now but we hope that you get some use out of the data contained in this article. If you did, be sure to share it with a friend or two. For any questions about oral health, give our downtown Chicago dentists a call at (312) 236-9325! Remember, healthy teeth make for a happier smile!