It’s one of the sacred cows of dental hygiene: after a meal, you can pop a piece of sugar-free gum into your mouth to scrub your teeth of food remnants and beat bad breath.
And it’s no wonder we hop on this train so quickly: chewing gum is an American staple. In fact, theU.S. Census Bureau reports that the average American chews almost two pounds of gum each year.
But what’s the science behind the claim? Is it true that gum really cleans your teeth? Is all gum created equal? Are there any side effects of gum that we might not know about?
Here’s what you need to know:
Can Gum be Good for Your Teeth?
You can’t walk out of a grocery store nowadays without passing a rack of shiny, packaged gum that advertises a whole host of dental benefits, ranging from whitening to freshening breath. It sounds too good to be true, but is it?
No. As it turns out, the hype is real. Certain types of gum CAN be good for your teeth. You just have to know where to look. Here are a few things to keep in mind next time you head out gum shopping:
Sugarless Gum Can Help Clean Your Teeth
Sure – there are dozens of gums advertised as cavity-fighting or tooth-boosting. According to theOral Health Foundation, though, any old sugarless gum will do:
“Chewing any regular sugar-free gum can help prevent cavities by removing food particles from the surfaces of your teeth. Chewing also stimulates the production of saliva, which helps clear away food, strengthen teeth, and reduce the levels of acid in your mouth that cause tooth decay.”
With this in mind, reach for whichever gum is your favorite. Just be sure to stay away from sugar-packed varieties, as they’ll do more harm than good for your teeth.
Gravitate Toward Xylitol
Xylitol is a compound used to replace sugar in foods like chewing gum and peanut butter. In addition to lowering the calorie content of these snacks, Xylitol helps prevent cavities. According toa 2002 study conducted at the Institute of Dentistry in Finland, Xylitol can reduce the level of cavity-causing bacteria contained in the mouth:
“Xylitol is compatible and complementary with all current oral hygiene recommendations. The appealing sensory and functional properties of xylitol facilitate a wide array of applications that promote oral health.”
While bacteria can feed on and digest traditional sugar, using it to create acid and wear away at your teeth, they can’t digest Xylitol, which makes it an excellent additive for gum dedicated to oral hygiene.
Some Gum Protects Enamel
When you thought it couldn’t get any better – some gum goes so far as to protect the enamel on your teeth. Gums with an additive known as casein phosphopeptide-amorphous calcium phosphate (CPP-ACP), also called Recaldent, works to mineralize and strengthen tooth enamel. This, in turn, toughens tooth enamel and decreases the likelihood of dental decay.
5 Ways to Identify Gum That Won’t Help Your Teeth
There are hundreds of kinds of gum out there. So how do you identify the brands that are good for you, and differentiate them from the ones that aren’t? Here are a few fail-proof tips:
1. Look for the ADA Seal – or Absence Thereof
Gum that is tooth-friendly earns theADA Seal. According to the ADA itself,
“A company earns the ADA Seal by demonstrating that its product meets the requirements for safety and efficacy for sugar-free chewing gum. Studies must also show that the gum is safe for use in the oral cavity. The manufacturer must provide the results of both laboratory studies and clinical studies in humans.”
If you don’t see the ADA Seal on the gum in your hand, put it back and pick another one.
2. Steer Clear of Sugar-Containing Gum
In addition to the fact that the ADA only grants its seal of acceptance to sugar-free gums, gums that contain sugar are terrible for your teeth. Don’t worry, though – sugar-free gums still taste great and provide a touch of sweetness you’re looking for. If you want to keep your teeth healthy, reach for sugar-free varieties only.
If you’re not sure what’s a tooth-friendly choice and what’s not, ask your dentist for some recommendations. They’ll be happy to give you a few tips on what to choose next time you visit the gum aisle.
3. Beware of Intense Flavors
While flavored gums aren’t always chock-full of sugar, it’s an excellent general guideline to abide by. With this in mind, steer clear of intensely flavored gums like cinnamon and fruit varieties. It’s also wise to avoid gums that have any filling or “flavor burst,” as that’s just a cover word for sugar.
4. Chew Moderately
Everything in moderation – especially when it comes to your teeth. Even sugar-free gum isn’t great for your teeth if you have it in your mouth all the time. Instead, stick to chewing a piece after meals or between meals. A piece or two a day will be just fine for your teeth, while more than that can create excess salivation and other inconvenient issues. If you have a tough time breaking your gum habit, consider sipping water instead.
5. Talk to Your Dentist
Have any doubts about the gum you’ve selected? Take them right to your dentist. Your dentist is your first line of defense when it comes to your oral health, and they/ll work closely with you to ensure you’re making good dental health choices and picking the right products to protect your teeth.
Care for Your Teeth – Book Your Cleaning Today!
We’re happy to bust the myth that chewing gum is bad for your teeth. As long as you stay away from sugar-filled varieties and keep your chewing moderate, gum can work wonders to cut down on oral bacteria and discourage dental decay.
Ready to learn more about chewing gum and other popular oral health trends? Overdue for your yearly cleaning? Contact our team to book your first appointment today.
Dental health: it’s about much more than white teeth and good breath. While it’s true that oral and dental hygiene can help you prevent bad breath and other mouth-related disorders, it goes much, much deeper than that. In fact, the health of our mouths has a significant impact on the health of the rest of our bodies – from our cardiovascular systems to our immune function.
Sound serious? It is! The great news, though, is that you can protect your health by investing in your dental health. Here’s what you need to know:
The Mouth: A Viewfinder into Your Body’s Complete System
If the eyes are the window to the soul, the mouth is a window to your overall health. According to theAmerican Dental Association (ADA):
“The mouth is filled with countless bacteria; some linked to tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. Researchers have found that periodontitis (the advanced form of periodontal disease that can cause tooth loss) is linked with other health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, and bacterial pneumonia. Likewise, pregnant women with periodontitis may be at increased risk of delivering preterm and low-birth-weight infants.”
To put this another way, a healthy mouth is a sign of good overall health. A mouth riddled with gum disease, loose teeth, and bad breath, though, may be a sign of serious underlying health issues.
5 Ways Dental Health Impacts Overall Health
By now, you know that your body function and your dental health are closely linked. How, exactly, does the health of your mouth impact the health of the rest of your body, though? Here are a few key points we like to tell our clients about:
1. Oral Health Impacts Cardiovascular Health
In recent years, several studies have shown that gum inflammation causes a statistically significant increase in the risk of heart disease and stroke. The reason for this comes down to systemic inflammation: gum disease increases inflammation throughout your body and can lead to inflammation in the soft tissue of the heart.
According to theCanadian Academy of Periodontology (CAP), people with periodontal disease are at higher risk of heart disease and have twice the risk of having a fatal heart attack than people without periodontal disease. Additionally, gum disease that results from extended bacterial exposure can eventually lead to severe cases of heart disease and inflammation.
2. Poor Oral Health Can Lead to Lung Infections
People with periodontal disease have a higher level of bacteria in their mouths. As such, they’re more likely to inhale bacteria and germs down the windpipe, creating an environment in the lungs that leads to severe lung infections, pneumonia, and other conditions. This risk is increased significantly in people who have pre-existing lung issues likeCOPD.
3. Oral Health can Contribute to Diabetes
People with diabetes are at a higher risk of gum disease. What scientists have recently realized, though, is that there may be a reverse causal relationship, as well. People with gum disease may be more prone to developing diabetes since bacteria in the mouth can impact the body’s ability to control blood glucose levels.
“Because periodontal disease is an infection, bacteria produce toxins that affect carbohydrate metabolism in individual cells. It is also thought that the host response to periodontal bacteria can increase insulin resistance and, therefore, blood glucose levels.”
This link is an excellent illustrating factor for anyone who still isn’t convinced that taking care of their teeth is essential.
4. Oral Health can Impact Pregnancy
If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, it’s wise to pay careful attention to your teeth. According to recent studies, pregnant women who suffer from progressive gum disease are more likely than their healthy-mouthed counterparts to deliver premature babies or babies with low birth weight or to develop gestational diabetes.
As your pregnancy progresses, be sure to visit your dentist regularly. Not only will your mouth thank you, but your pregnancy will progress more normally thanks to your healthy, clean mouth.
5. Dental Health and Blood Pressure
If you’re letting your oral health slide, you may also be putting your blood pressure levels at risk. According to a study published in October of 2018 by theAmerican Heart Association:
“Poor oral health may interfere with blood pressure control in people diagnosed with hypertension. Periodontal disease — a condition marked by gum infection, gum inflammation and tooth damage — appears to worsen blood pressure and interferes with hypertension treatment. Study findings underscore the importance of good oral health in blood pressure control and its role in preventing the adverse cardiovascular effects known to stem from untreated hypertension.”
If you’re currently taking blood pressure medication, you can increase the efficacy of your therapy by protecting your oral health, as well. Brushing and flossing regularly, and making routine trips to the dentist are all key factors in this process.
Good Oral Health Leads to Good Overall Health
It’s easy to assume that our mouths operate as independent systems – that they have as little to do with our hearts, blood pressure, or pregnancies as a baker would with a spaceship launch. This couldn’t be more misguided, though. Our oral health has a massive impact on the health of our overall body systems. When our mouths are clean and healthy, the rest of our body systems benefit, as a result.
A clean mouth reduces the overall level of bacteria in the body, contributing to a healthier immune system, lower blood pressure, less inflammation, and a reduced risk of disease. If you’re ready to start taking better care of your oral health, the first step is getting to a dentist for a routine checkup. Working closely with a dentist keeps your mouth clean and healthy and ensures you’ll catch any troubling dental problems before they become major issues.
Our team is happy to assist you with this process. Give us a call today to schedule your check-up appointment and start protecting your oral health.
If you haven’t been to the dentist in a very long time, you might feel some shame surrounding the idea of your first return appointment.
Will people judge you when you go? What’s it going to feel like to have somebody working in your mouth? What will the dentist find when he or she gets in there? If you haven’t been to the dentist in years, now is a great time to take charge of your oral health and ensure it stays on the up-and-up going forward.
In addition to preventing tooth loss and other issues, going to the dentist is an essential part of maintaining healthy habits and setting yourself up for success as far as your oral hygiene is concerned.
This doesn’t mean you don’t have questions, though. With that in mind, if you find yourself going to the dentist for the first time in years.
Your Gums may Bleed
When the dental hygienists begin to floss your teeth, your gums are likely to bleed. Although this may be a bit startling, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something terribly wrong with your teeth or mouth.
In many cases, gums will bleed because they’re simply not used to the pressure of floss. If you want to reduce the risk that your gums will bleed, practice flossing them at home.
The Cleaning May Take Awhile
If it’s been some time since you’ve gone in for a dental cleaning, your teeth will likely have a significant amount of plaque buildup on them. This is normal. It may, however, mean that you will spend more time in the dental chair having your teeth cleaned than you would otherwise.
As the hygienist works to clean each tooth, remind yourself that this process is essential to your dental health and that your teeth will be stronger and whiter once you leave the appointment. If you’re very nervous about spending time in the dentist’s chair, ask about relaxation techniques. Your dentist will likely have several suggestions to help make your next appointment a more pleasant experience.
Today, x-rays are standard in many areas of healthcare. If you have not been to the dentist in a long time, it’s likely that the professionals in the office will want to know what’s going on in your mouth. Dental X-rays are some of the best ways to do this.
With this in mind, prepare yourself to undergo some dental X-rays during your first return appointment. If you have old x-rays on file, the dentist may be able to use those. If not, however, Your dentist can create new x-rays to help create a comprehensive picture of your oral health and guide future appointments.
If you’ve ever had dental X-rays before, you know that they can be a bit uncomfortable. Relax and understand that they will be over quickly, and that they are a necessary part of this appointment.
A Comprehensive Oral Exam
Once a dental hygienist has completely cleaned your teeth, your dentist will give you a comprehensive oral examination. The purpose of this examination is to inspect your mouth for cavities, and signs of dental disease.
Your doctor may also look for signs of oral cancer and other conditions. If you haven’t been to the dentist in many years, it’s very likely that there will be a cavity or two in your mouth that will require some attention.
A Breakdown of Facts
Once your examination is complete, your dentist will sit down with you and discuss the facts. If you have questions, now is a great time to ask them. This is also the time at which your dentist will help you understand your future care needs, and come up with a plan to deliver them.
If you need fillings, crowns, or additional work, you may take the time now to schedule an additional appointment for the coming months or weeks. If your dentist has any concern about your dental hygiene routine or anything like that, now is also a great time too. Treat this time as the information gathering opportunity that it is.
Keeping Your Teeth Healthy Going Forward
There are many reasons that people don’t go to the dentist for several years. In some cases, the issue is financial. Dental care is expensive, and those without dental insurance may have a difficult time accessing the professional attention they need. In other cases, people don’t go to the dentist because they’re afraid or nervous about the procedures therein.
Regardless of what kept you away from the dentist for so many years, taking yourself back into the dental office represents the start of a new phase of wellness. From here on out, you have the opportunity to go a different way when it comes to your dental health.
With that in mind, here are a few tips to keep your teeth healthy and strong as you move forward:
Brush at least twice daily.Brushing your teeth regularly is your best defense against dental issues. Each time you eat a meal, brush your teeth immediately afterward. For best results, select a toothbrush with a narrow head and soft bristles, which are gentler on gums and provide better access to back teeth.
Use fluoridated toothpaste. Fluoride is designed to harden tooth enamel and cut down on your risk of dental decay. With this in mind, opt for a dentist-approved fluoride toothpaste, which will help you help your teeth stay healthy and strong.
Brush thoroughly. Brush your teeth like you wash your hands. Thoroughly. The best tooth brushing sessions take between two and three minutes. Don’t sell yourself short here.
Limit foods that are hard on your dental well-being. Certain foods, like those containing high amounts of sugar, acidic drinks, fruit juices, and sticky candies, are all difficult for your teeth to handle. With this in mind, limit your consumptions of these things and choose healthier alternatives, such as cheese, fruits and nuts, and leafy greens.
A New Life of Dental Wellness Starts Here!
So you didn’t go to the dentist for years, but those days are over now. As you move forward, these tips will help you keep your mouth healthy and happy, and ensure that your teeth are as strong as they need to be.
For now, focus on getting through your first dental appointment. Remember that the dentist is there to help you and that even though seeing a dentist can be frightening, it’s always a wise decision.
Take this opportunity to ask your dentist any questions you may have, and to come up with an ongoing dental care plan. You’re not the only one who goes years without going to the dentist, but it’s never too late to start again. Treat this like a new beginning rather than something to be ashamed of. Regardless of what your dental history may look like, your teeth are too important to neglect from this point forward.
Do you need to schedule a dental appointment? Contact our team today to speak with one of our skilled staff members.