1. Are the claims regarding the oral care benefits of chewing sugarfree gum supported by clinical research?
Yes. Research supported by many organizations has established the relationship between the use of sugarfree chewing gum and oral care benefits.
For more than 25 years, the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Program has supported clinical research focused on the benefits of chewing gum to help you and your patients understand the role of sugarfree gum as a convenient complimentary tool for everyday oral care. In recent years the FDI World Dental Federation and more than 25 national dental associations have recognized the strength of the scientific evidence supporting chewing sugarfree gum, and FDI has granted the use of its logo on Wrigley packs. In 2009, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) approved claims that sugarfree chewing gum can help neutralize plaque acids, remineralize tooth enamel and reduce/improve dry mouth. In 2011, EFSA approved additional claims which noted a relationship between two of the oral care benefits of chewing sugarfree gum - the neutralization of plaque acids and the reduced demineralization of tooth enamel - as being risk factors in the development of caries.
2. How can chewing gum help patients maintain oral health?
As you know, immediately after eating, plaque acids can attack teeth and initiate the demineralization of the tooth surface, which can weaken teeth and lead to decay over time. Chewing sugarfree gum increases the production of saliva, which can help neutralize plaque acid, wash away food particles and remineralize tooth enamel to strengthen teeth. In fact, chewing sugarfree gum for 20 minutes after meals and snacks has been proven to help protect teeth.
3. How does chewing gum increase saliva in the mouth?
The action of chewing stimulates the salivary glands to increase their flow rate by up to 10 times the resting state during the first few minutes of chewing and keeps it significantly elevated throughout prolonged chewing.
4. What are the benefits of increased saliva flow?
Increased saliva flow can accelerate the clearance of food debris and dietary carbohydrates from the mouth, as has been documented by several researchers. Stimulated saliva also has a high bicarbonate concentration that enhances the capacity to neutralize acid. It is supersaturated with minerals that consist of the same components that make up teeth, such as calcium, phosphate and hydroxyl ions. These components shift the equilibrium from demineralization to remineralization, building back mineral density in teeth.
5. Is there a connection between chewing gum and stomach acid?
There is no evidence that saliva itself stimulates gastric juices from the stomach. It is generally accepted that only medication will activate gastric juices. During the chewing of gum there is a sharp rise in saliva volume; saliva contains bicarbonate and when swallowed, an acid neutralizing effect occurs in the stomach. Research on this issue has been conducted on patients who have a duodenal ulcer, or X-ray negative dyspepsia, and it was concluded that even for these people gum chewing is harmless. If this potentially sensitive group can chew gum without exacerbating their stomach problems, then it would seem reasonable to conclude that chewing gum should not cause stomach problems for others.
6. When should sugarfree gum be chewed?
Following the consumption of fermentable carbohydrates, the teeth’s plaque pH level falls rapidly before gradually returning to pre-consumption values after 30 to 60 minutes. Chewing gum produces a rapid increase of plaque pH to minimize the risk of damage that may be caused by plaque acids to the teeth.