It has been estimated that the average American chews 300 pieces of gum each year. All that chewing has led many of us -- and some researchers -- to wonder whether gum is harmful or beneficial to our oral health.
Chewing gum has been popular since the time of the ancient Greeks, who chewed a tree sap called mastiche. Ancient Mayans chewed a different sap called tsiclte. European settlers that came to New England got in the habit of chewing spruce sap after it was introduced to them by Native Americans.
Though we have come a long way from the days of chewing tree sap, the basic idea remains the same. Modern gum is made from a synthetic base to which sweetener, softener, flavoring and coloring is added.
The most significant threat that gum can pose to your teeth is the heightened risk of tooth decay due to sugar. Chewing gum that is made with sugar creates an ideal situation for tooth decay to occur as the acids that break down your tooth enamel thrive on the sugar released from the gum. Lucky for us, the most significant advancement in the realm of modern gum chewing and our oral health has been the development of sugar-free gum.
You will be relieved to know that with the sugar issue out of the way, chewing sugar-free gum can actually promote good oral health! Chewing gum causes your mouth to produce more saliva. The increased saliva flow helps to clean teeth by washing away debris and can actually strengthen enamel because it is rich in minerals that can be absorbed by your teeth.