Remember when we used to get in trouble for chewing gum in the classroom? Remember when it was considered to be a bad habit and fell under the category of “candy?”
Fast forward to tbis year and chewing gum has come a long way. In fact, it’s been around for a very long time!
Early Chewing Gum
People have been chewing “gum” since ancient times in the form of resins, grasses, bark, waxes and grains. It wasn’t until the mid 1800s that a modern form of chewing gum was made from spruce tree sap, wax and flavouring then sold commercially to people.
One problem with the earlier modern version of gum was that it was difficult to get it to hold its flavor. All kinds of flavouring agents were tried, but it wasn’t until someone combined sugar, corn syrup and peppermint to his formula that gum evolved into the sugary, minty flavours that have lasted for so many years.
Gum as a Cavity Fighter?
It wasn’t until recently, that we found a healthier, natural alternative to sugar – in the form of xylitol – and we have been able to keep the sweetness in gum without having to use aspartame or cavity-causing sugar. Bacterial live and thrive and populate in a high ph-level acidic environment. Sugar rises ph so bacteria can actively damage (demineralize) tooth enamel, whereas, xylitol lowers ph to reduce bacterial levels and encourage slaiva production which repairs (remineralizes) tooth surfaces.
In fact, chewing gum containing Xylitol helps your fight against cavities by helping:
1. to neutralize the acids in our mouth.
2. to prevent bacteria from sticking to teeth
3. to lower bacterial levels
4. to stimulate the production of cavity fighting saliva
Read more about the role of Xylitol here.
Surprisingly, using gum as a cavity fighter was an idea that was first introduced back in 1869 when William Semple, a dentist from Ohio, began using his own variety of chewing gum to help people keep their teeth clean. He declared that since his product had scouring-properties it could be used suitably to clean teeth. It is commonly thought that he was the first person to patent chewing gum, however, another man from Ohio had patented his chewing gum earlier in the year.
Recaldent™ is the trademark name of a naturally occurring protein we know as CPP-ACP: casein phosphopeptide-amorphous calcium phosphate. It is found in cows’ milk and when used in chewing gum and dental pastes, it works by delivering calcium and phosphate ions into the tooth, repairing and strengthening areas of enamel previously damaged by the action of bacteria.In our office, we use Recaldent in a paste form. We’ve found that it can be effective in helping patients with teeth sensitivity, acid erosion or those patients who have a high incidence of dental decay. In addition, we have had some success using it to diminish the appearance of white spots that can occur during orthodontic treatment or from prolonged accumulation of plaque on tooth surfaces.
How do we feel about chewing gum?
Chewing gum, even those that are sugarless like the xylitol and Recaldent varieties, do not replace good nutrition, lifestyle and diligent oral hygiene. Along with choosing a well-balanced, whole food diet and keeping your teeth, gums and tongue clean during the day, we are firm believers in the science behind meal frequency. Your body’s own saliva is also an excellent cavity fighter, but it’s important to space out your meals out so that saliva can have the 4-5 hours it needs to repair bacterial damage to your teeth.
If you can’t get to a toothbrush? Rinsing with water and chewing gums after a meal is a suitable alternative until you can clean your teeth properly.