What is something the ancient Greeks and Mayans had in common? They each had their own version of what we consider chewing gum today. For the Greeks, it was sap from the mastic tree and for the Mayans, sap from the sapodilla tree. Closer to home, Native Americans enjoyed chewing the sap from a spruce tree.
While the gum we chew nowadays may no longer come from trees, it is still a popular treat. For the most part, gum is now synthetically derived from resins, waxes, sweeteners (such as aspartame, sorbitol or mannitol) and other flavoring and color. But, despite it’s long and varied history, is it good for your teeth?
Rest assured, studies have shown chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following a meal can help prevent tooth decay. When we chew gum, the amount of saliva in our mouth increases. Saliva is beneficial as it washes away the acids produced by the break down of food by the bacteria in plaque on your teeth. These acids can break down tooth enamel and lead to decay. It also puts more calcium and phosphate in your mouth which help to strengthen tooth enamel.
Don’t throw away your toothbrush and floss just yet! In a pinch, a piece of gum can help reduce plaque acid and prevent decay, among other benefits. Make certain to look for sugar-free gum that has earned the American Dental Association (ADA) seal, proving it meets their requirements of safety.