For thousands of years, people have chewed on natural materials to quench their thirst and clean their teeth. The ancient Babylonians chewed on sticks that resembled large toothpicks as part of their oral hygiene routine. Archaeological records indicate that ancient Romans and Grecians did likewise. Today, the chewing stick has evolved into sticks of chewing gum, but the dental benefits of chewing still remain. Dr. Brad Greenfield lists fun facts about chewing gum and its benefits to your oral health.
Facts About Chewing Gum
- In an early version of modern chewing gum, Native Americans chewed on the gum-like resin found inside the bark of a spruce tree. Spruce was the first commercial chewing gum and was sold and traded in lumps. In 1850, spruce was replaced by paraffin wax as the new chewing gum base.
- The US military spread the popularity of chewing gum during World War II by trading it and giving it as gifts to people across Europe, Asia, and Africa.
- Studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum contributes to good oral hygiene. Saliva carries tooth enamel-strengthening minerals like calcium and phosphate. When saliva is induced (i.e., by chewing) it has high concentrations of these minerals and offers increased assistance to remineralization and cavity prevention.
- Chewing gum also increases saliva’s ability to neutralize acids that can harm your enamel. Stimulated saliva contains bicarbonate to buffer the acids formed from plaque.
- By chewing gum immediately after a meal, you can help prevent the reduction in plaque’s pH (alkaline-acid relationship) that usually results from interaction with food. Lower pH indicates higher acidity, and acidic plaque immediately attacks your tooth enamel.
Chewing sugarless gum can be a fun addition to your oral health routine, but do not make the mistake of believing that you can substitute chewing gum for manually brushing and flossing your teeth. Be sure to continue to attend your dental checkup at least every six months to allow Dr. Greenfield to inspect the state of your oral health. To learn more, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Greenfield, call Lake Orion Family Dentistry in Lake Orion, Michigan, at (248) 693-6213. We welcome patients from Lake Orion, Oxford, Rochester Hills, Clarkston, and the surrounding communities.