Updated: May 31
Historically, dentists were opposed to chewing gum due to their sugar content but that all changed with the advent of sugarless gum. So what makes this sugar free version of gum so special and why did the dental community change its mind? Our long island city dentists will lay it all out for you.
History of sugar free gum
The first commercially sold chewing gum was made by John Bacon Curtis in 1848 but it was full of sugar because gum in its original form was unflavored. The sugar enhanced the flavor and made it more palatable for the general public.
Due to the sugar content, dentists never endorsed the product because of the cavity inducing potential. As we all know, sugar provides fuel for the bacteria to cause tooth decay. It also doesn't help that the sugar also lowers the pH in the mouth to an acidic level, which allows the cavity causing bacteria to work more effectively. This double whammy from sugar is what turned dentists away from sugared gum.
That all changed in the 1950s when a dentist, Dr Bruno Petrulis invented the first sugar free chewing gum. This new sugarless gum was "dentist approved" because it contained ammonia, which counteracted the acids in gum that led to tooth decay. Dr Petrulis eventually sold his company to Wrigley Co.
What makes sugar free gum good for your teeth?
Sugar free gum is good for your teeth because it can help prevent tooth decay and reduce your risk for cavities. It is able to do this because the act of chewing gum will physically remove food that is stuck on your teeth and also promote salivary flow to buffer the pH in your mouth.
Physical removal of stuck food
After a meal, food can become lodged in and around your teeth. Since the chewing gum is very sticky, it will pull and dislodge food that may be stuck on your teeth. Therefore when you chew gum for 10-20 minutes after a meal, it will help cleanse your teeth.
Promote salivary flow
When you chew gum, it will stimulate your saliva glands to produce more saliva. Your saliva has a neutral pH of around 6.2-7.6 and that can help buffer the pH in your mouth. Buffering the mouth will help prevent cavities because cavities can only form once the pH drops below 5.5
The increase in saliva flow will bring the pH of the mouth from an acidic level back up to a more neutral level. This neutral level will neutralize the tooth decay causing bacteria.
Studies have been performed, which compared the the salivary flow rate of chewing gum vs no gum. The results demonstrated that the amount of saliva peaked within the first minute of chewing gum and then slowly declined from there. Even after 6 minutes of chewing gums, the amount of saliva was still greater than someone who was not chewing gum.
How to chew gum
Unwrap chewing gum from wrapper.
Place gum in your mouth.
Proceed to chew for the next 10-20 minutes.
Spit gum out into trash.
What's the best gum for teeth?
The best gum for your teeth would be sugar free gum because they actually have the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval. Regular sugared gum does not have the seal of approval. To be more specific, the ADA has 8 listed gums which they approve but in no particular order.
Bazooka sugar free gum
Ice breaker ice cubes
Mentos pure gum fresh
Mentos pure white gum
Orbit sugar free gum
Orbit white sugar free gum
Quip sugar free gum
Trident sugar free gum
These 8 chewing gums are the best sugar free gum for your teeth, at least according to the ADA. None of them contain sugar but use a sugar substitute instead.
There is a difference between different sugarless gums because some of them use Xylitol while others use Sorbitol. This means that there are different types of sugarless chewing gum but which one is better?
The best sugarless gum for teeth
Xylitol and sorbitol are classified as sugar alcohols, which makes them both sugarless. Studies have been carried out on both of them to test their cavity prevention properties. We will compare both of them.
This Swedish study came to the conclusion that Sorbitol did help in preventing cavities but it did have a couple of caveats.
Sorbitol did produce a slight amount of acid but it was negligible.
It was virtually noncariogenic, which means does not cause cavities.
Sorbitol did not possess cariostatic properties, which means that it does not inhibit the formation of cavities.
The cavity prevention properties of xylitol have been well studied.
Xylitol disrupts the energy production process of bacteria in plaque, which leads to cell death.
It reduces the ability of bacteria to adhere to tooth surfaces and decreases their acid production potential.
Comparison of Xylitol vs Sorbitol
Another study, which compared the two sugar alcohols stated that Sorbitol was low cariogenic while Xylitol was noncariogenic. This means that xylitol does not cause cavities while sorbitol does have a low chance of causing cavities. The previous study above about Sorbitol did admit that it produces a very low but neglible amount of acid. Due to this tiny amount of acid production, it cannot be classified as noncariogenic.
This means that Xylitol is more effective than Sorbitol in preventing cavities. A different study which compared multiple studies also came to the same conclusion saying that xylitol is superior to sorbitol. Of course this doesn't mean that sorbitol is bad for your teeth, it still works but xylitol is just better.
Xylitol is also more expensive than Sorbitol in case you were wondering.
The best xylitol gum for teeth
There isn't one particular brand of xylitol gum that outperforms another brand since they all contain the same ingredient, xylitol. Therefore it does not make a difference which brand you use but as long as it contains xylitol you should be able to reap the cavity prevention benefits!
Our recommendation would be to pick one which you can easily purchase and also make sure that it has a flavor that you like. If you like the flavor, it will encourage you to chew it more and that will help decrease your risk for tooth decay. The california dental association also does not make a specific recommendation but just gives the approval for xylitol as a whole.
Due to the potential for sugar free gum to prevent tooth decay, we would have to say that all sugar free gum are better than sugared gum. We would also like to go as far as saying that within the different types of sugarless gum, we would recommend xylitol gum over sorbitol gum because of its additional cavity preventing properties.
Well there you have it, our long island city dentists would like to proudly endorse sugarless xylitol chewing gum as the best type of gum for your teeth. Chewing this gum for about 10-20 minutes after a meal will help reduce the chances of you getting cavities.