The Age-old Question

A piece of gum can make or break a kiss, save you from offending a co-worker with your post-lunch breath, or give you that little refresher your mouth needs. According to clinical studies, chewing gum is good for your dental health. But note the study references sugarless gum.

Why does chewing sugarless gum prevent tooth decay? Chewing sugarless gum increases saliva flow and washes away food and other debris, neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, and provides disease-fighting substances throughout the mouth. Increased saliva flow also comes with more calcium and phosphate to help strengthen tooth enamel.

Look for sugarless chewing gum with the ADA Seal. The ADA Seal is your assurance that the sugar-free chewing gum has met the ADA criteria for safety and effectiveness. You can trust that claims made on packaging and labeling for ADA-accepted products are true, because companies must verify all of the information to the ADA. All gums with the ADA Seal are sweetened by non-cavity causing sweeteners such as aspartame, xylitol, sorbitol or mannitol.

What about kids and chewing gum? The American Academy of Pediatrics considers gum a choking hazard for children younger than age 5. “We also know a whole lot about how toddlers’ brains work, and 2-year-olds simply have not yet developed the ability to think through their actions, consider consequences or consistently follow rules,” said Dr. Laura Jana, a pediatrician and author of “The Toddler Brain: Nurture the Skills Today that Will Shape Your Child’s Tomorrow.” She added: “If you’re 2 and something tastes good, you swallow it, regardless of whether you’ve been cautioned not to.” Dr. Miller agreed. “When a child understands they shouldn’t be swallowing — that’s the right time to allow chewing gum,” he said.

Is chewing all gum good for me? Probably not. It's true that chewing gum for 20 minutes after meals helps reduce your risk for tooth decay but that's only if it's the sugarless variety. Chewing gum with sugar also increases saliva, but be aware, the sugar also increases the opportunity for decay. Even if you chew sugarless gum regularly, the ADA still recommends brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and cleaning plaque from between your teeth once a day with dental floss or other interdental cleaners.

Did you also know chewing gum has many other health benefits? Research shows that chewing gum can help lessen the symptoms of acid reflux disease, better known to most people as GERD or heartburn. So next time you're worried about heartburn, try chewing some sugarless gum after you eat.

Here are some of the other perks of chewing gum:

Slim Your Waistline

According to a University of Liverpool study , chewing gum can slightly curb your cravings, which may help you make better eating choices. On average, the gum chewers in the study ate 36 fewer calories than those who didn’t chew gum. That doesn’t sound all that impressive, but if you cut 36 calories out of your diet every day, it adds up.

Burn Calories

Sure, you only burn 11 calories an hour from chewing a stick of gum, but times that by several hours, and you may be shaving an extra 50 plus calories from your day.

Improve Memory

Chewing gum increases blood flow to your brain. This has a lot of positive effects including improving your memory. In his research, professor Andrew Sholey discovered your short-term memory could be improved 35 percent by chewing a stick of gum. But be cautious: chewing on it for too long can decrease your short-term memory.

Fight Drowsiness

If you struggle to stay alert at work, chewing gum could be the simple solution you’re looking for. One study revealed chewing gum can fight sleepiness. Anything mint flavored is the most effective gum to battle midday yawns.

Lessen Depression

A 2011 study showed that chewing gum twice daily for two weeks reduced anxiety, depression, fatigue, and other mental illnesses in patients.

Eliminate Nausea

Sugarless mint or ginger gums of all kinds can sooth an upset stomach, whether it’s morning sickness or motion sickness. Mint and ginger are natural remedies for nausea. If you’re looking for little ways to improve your health, try chewing a stick of gum rather than reaching for a dessert. You’ll thank yourself later.

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