Bite off more than you can chew: Gums kill oral bacteria

  • PTI, London
  • Updated: Jan 26, 2015 15:12 IST

Here's something you can tell your parents the next time they ask you not to chew gum. A new study suggests that just 10 minutes of chewing gum can remove 100 million bacteria from your mouth. It adds that it is as good as flossing!

Researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands found that chewing gum can trap and remove bacteria from the oral cavity. In the study, five biomedical engineering students were recruited to chew two different standard types of spearmint gum for various lengths of time ranging from 30 seconds to 10 minutes.

Afterward, the gum was spit into a cup filled with sterile water to be analysed, Medical Daily reported. There were were about 100 million bacteria detected on each piece of chewed up gum, with the number increasing as chewing time increased.

However, after 30 seconds of chewing, the gum starts to lose its adhesiveness, meaning it traps fewer bacteria overall. "Trapped bacteria were clearly visualised in chewed gum using scanning-electron-microscopy," researchers said in the paper published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Previous research has shown that using a new, clean toothbrush without any toothpaste can remove around 100 million colony-forming units (CFUs) per brush, which would put
chewing of gum on par with the mechanical action of a toothbrush.

In another experiment with three human volunteers who used 5 cm of floss wire, researchers found that "the mechanical action of floss wire removes a comparable number of
bacteria from the oral cavity than does chewing of a single piece of gum."

"Chewing, however, does not necessarily remove bacteria from the same sites of the dentition as does brushing or flossing, therefore its results may be noticeable on a more
long-term than those of brushing or flossing," researchers said.

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