Chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes daily can prevent cavities and tooth decay, shows a recent study. | health | Hindustan Times
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Chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes daily can prevent cavities and tooth decay, shows a recent study.

Adding chewing gum to your daily oral hygiene routine may help prevent tooth decay and save $4.1 billion -- money spent to treat it -- every year, globally.

health Updated: Jun 02, 2017 13:38 IST
Although tooth decay is largely preventable, it still affects 60-90% school children globally.
Although tooth decay is largely preventable, it still affects 60-90% school children globally. (Shutterstock)

Want to prevent cavities and tooth decay? Chew gum for 20 minutes every day. Make sure it’s sugar-free though.

A 25-country study published in the American Journal of Dentistry shows that increasing the consumption of sugar-free gum by just one-piece a day as part of the oral hygiene routine can reduce the global expenditure on treating tooth decays by $4.1 billion a year.

“The study represents a solid and substantial approach to the accurate calculation of cost savings in industrial countries that would arise from increasing sugar-free gum consumption,” said professor Reinhard Rychlik, the study’s lead author.

“Chewing sugar-free gum as a preventive measure for tooth decay has the potential to deliver significant dental care cost savings worldwide,” he added.

For India, the cost might go down by $0.55 million each year.

Currently, Indians spend more than 6 billion every year for treating tooth decay, according to estimates.

Although tooth decay is largely preventable, it still affects 60-90% school children globally. It is the fourth most expensive health condition to treat, and buying a pack of gum is much cheaper.

How to brush your teeth:
  • Wet the brush and use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste
  • Keep the brush at 45 degrees angle on the gum line and start with short circular or vertical motions
  • Don’t brush across teeth
  • Clean each tooth, including from the inside on both sides (up and down)
  • Run the brush softly on gums and inside of your cheeks
  • Clean the tongue using tongue cleaner
  • Rinse the mouth thoroughly
  • Add chewing gum to normal oral hygiene routine
  • Doctors, however, warn that chewing gum cannot replace the general oral hygiene routine that one must follow.

Add chewing gum to normal oral hygiene routine

Doctors, however, warn that chewing gum cannot replace the general oral hygiene routine that one must follow.

“Several studies have shown that chewing sugar-free gum is good for oral hygiene. But, people need to realise they still have to brush twice a day. Chewing gums should be used after meals to cleanse the mouth,” said Dr Mahesh Verma, director of Maulana Azad Institute of Dental Sciences.

Don’t miss the floss and tongue-cleaner. “Brushing the teeth leaves out around 30 – 40% of the teeth surfaces, there can be a thin layer of food between the teeth. Also, cleaning the tongue is important because that’s where bacteria can grow and also cause bad breath,” said Dr Verma.

How does chewing gum help?

“Chewing gum after a meal, increases salivation and helps in flushing out food debris. People must have noticed that the teeth feel cleaner after chewing gum, this is the reason. Chewing gum can also provide muscle exercise,” said Dr Verma.

Apart from cleaning out the food particles, most sugar-free chewing gums contain minerals like calcium and phosphate ions, “which help in returning the mouth to the right pH level and rebuild the protective layer of enamel,” according to Wrigley, the company that funded the study.

The growing body of evidence that proves the benefits of sugar-free chewing gums, may lead to the inclusion of sugar-free gum in oral healthcare advice, alongside other proven oral hygiene behaviours in future.

“However, we do not know how successful it will be in India. We need to look at the socio-economic conditions of our people. Why would they spend on chewing gums? Also, oral hygiene is not given much importance here, people do not even floss regularly or go for routine dental check-up, said Dr Verma.

“Several studies have shown that chewing sugar-free gum is good for oral hygiene. But, people need to realise they still have to brush twice a day. Chewing gums should be used after meals to cleanse the mouth,” said Dr Mahesh Verma, director of Maulana Azad Institute of Dental Sciences.

Don’t miss the floss and tongue-cleaner.

“Brushing the teeth leaves out around 30 – 40% of the teeth surfaces, there can be a thin layer of food between the teeth. Also, cleaning the tongue is important because that’s where bacteria can grow and also cause bad breath,” said Dr Verma.