We live in a nation of gum chewers — nearly 62% of adolescents and adults have chewed gum in the last six months, to say nothing of the nearly 80% of kids who’ve chewed gum in the last three months.
Whether you chew gum to freshen up your breath or you use the habit to relieve anxiety, you want to know whether it’s having an impact on your oral health.
To answer that question, the skilled and experienced dentists who lead the team here at Union Square Dental — Dr. Yuliya Kanatova and Dr. Kateryna Grytsenko — present the following information.
A matter of sugar
Let’s first tackle one of the reasons why we discourage gum chewing — surrounding your teeth with sugar or sweeteners that encourage tooth decay. It’s one thing to pass some candy through your mouth, but when you chomp on sugar-filled or sweetened gum, you’re allowing the sweet stuff to linger, which can quickly lead to plaque buildup.
If you consider that 90% of adults in the United States between the ages of 20 and 64 have experienced some degree of tooth decay, you understand why we’re concerned. Tooth decay is one of the leading drivers of tooth loss and we want to do all that we can to preserve your teeth.
If you chew sweetened gum, a great tip is to rinse your mouth with water when you’re done. Or, better yet, chew gum that’s sugar-free.
Staining your teeth
Not only do we urge you to chew sugar-free gum, but it’s also a very good idea to pay attention to artificial coloring. For example, berry-flavored gum typically comes with no small amount of artificial coloring, which can stain your teeth.
If you want to preserve your white teeth (or your results from our professional teeth whitening services), ditch the artificial coloring in your gum.
Out of joint
Another reason why we (and many other dental professionals) aren’t all that keen about frequent gum chewing is that it can force the tiny hinge joints on either side of your jaw to work too hard. If you overstress these joints, called your temporomandibular joints (TMJs), it can lead to a TMJ disorder that causes facial pain and even headaches.
If your jaw feels sore, take this as a sign to quit chewing gum to give your TMJs a much-needed break. Not to mention, it’s more important that you save your TMJs for chewing your meals.
Not necessarily a dangerous habit
If you get rid of the sugar and coloring in your gum and your TMJs don’t object to the extra chewing, we do feel that it’s perfectly fine to chew gum on occasion. The other ingredients in gum, such as resin, preservatives, and softeners, are fairly safe.
We also acknowledge that some good can come out of gum chewing, such as stress relief. Additionally, some people turn to gum chewing as a weight loss tool to keep from eating. These reasons for chewing gum are important ones for your overall health. As dentists, we just want to make sure you chew the right gum so you don’t encourage tooth decay and staining.
If you have more questions or concerns about the effects of gum chewing on your dental health, feel free to contact our New York City office in the Flatiron District at 212-675-7877. Or, you can schedule an appointment using our email form.