Chewing gum and mints are two types of candy that have been associated with oral health. However, candy in general is generally accepted as being potentially harmful to your oral health, which can make people wonder whether or not chewing gum and mints are more harmful or helpful. The simple answer is that both chewing gum and mints have the potential to be both harmful and helpful to your oral health. To explain why this is, let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons associated with gum and mints:
Protects the Teeth
Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in sugar-free gum and mints. It has been found to prevent bacteria from sticking to the teeth and can also prevent bacteria from growing. As a result, xylitol actually helps to protect the teeth by preventing the formation of dental cavities. However, any sugar-free gum or mints are considered to be beneficial, especially after meals. The American Dental Association even notes that chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after eating can decrease the risk of cavities.
Increases Saliva Production
Another pro of gum and mints is the fact that they help to increase saliva production in the mouth. Saliva plays a few important roles in maintaining your oral health. These include neutralizing acids, strengthening enamel, and flushing food particles and excess bacteria from the mouth. Increasing saliva production is especially important for individuals who struggle with chronic dry mouth. Chewing gum or sucking on mints is a great way to combat dry mouth, as long as sugar-free options are used.
Decreases Tooth Sensitivity
Chewing sugar-free gum has also been shown to decrease tooth sensitivity, especially in people who have just had their teeth whitened. Sometimes teeth whitening treatments can cause tooth sensitivity, and chewing sugar-free gum helps to increase saliva production, which strengthens the enamel and decreases sensitivity. Sugar-free mints can also help increase saliva production.
Can Increase the Risk of Cavities
When it comes to both gum and mints, it is important to pay attention to whether or not they contain sugar. Chewing gum and mints that use sugar generally use sucrose. Sucrose is a primary food source of the bacteria responsible for tooth decay and gum disease. This means that chewing gum or eating mints with sucrose increases bacterial populations, which also increases the risk of developing cavities.
Makes the Mouth Acidic
Not only does sucrose feed the bacteria in your mouth, but it also allows them to produce more acidic waste. Additionally, gum or mints can also contain citric or other acids used for flavoring. The end result is that your mouth becomes more acidic, which makes tooth decay and enamel erosion more likely.
Can Lead to TMD
In most cases, chewing gum won’t harm your jaw. However, excessive gum chewing can eventually take a toll on your jaw joint and can lead to temporomandibular joint disorder. This can cause facial pain, headaches, and jaw pain. If you notice jaw pain while chewing gum, you may need to speak to your dentist.
Dr. Alina Huang has been practicing dentistry in Manhattan for the last eight years. She was born in New York City, and raised in California where she received her Bachelor’s degree at UCLA, and her D.D.S. at the University of the Pacific in San Francisco. She then made her return to NYC where she completed her General Practice Residency at Montefiore Medical Center and has been working in private practice ever since. She continues her learning by attending courses to stay current with the latest advancements in dentistry and refine her skills.