For a long time, dentists have been advocating that if you can’t brush, chewing some sugar-free gum can help clean your mouth to prevent cavities or gum disease. Now a new study has confirmed that not only does gum remove bacteria from the mouth, it does it at about the same rate as flossing.
How Gum Cleans the Mouth
There are many potential mechanisms that had been proposed for how chewing gum could help protect your oral health. Most commonly, it was supposed that chewing gum after eating would mean you would salivate more, suppressing bacteria with your natural antibacterial rinse. Chewing gum was also suspected to help trap and remove food particles from the teeth. And, of course, chewing gum containing xylitol can suppress the development of bacterial biofilms.
In this study, though, researchers confirmed another way that chewing gum can protect the teeth: actually trapping bacteria. Researchers realized that they could analyze chewing gum samples taken from participants and analyze the gum to determine how much bacteria was trapped in it.
After it had been chewed for about 10 minutes, gum contained about 100 million bacteria, similar to the amount removed by flossing, according to the study. They were able to analyze the bacterial species and determine where the bacteria lived in the mouth. The bacteria came from a variety of places in the mouth, including the surface of the teeth, the saliva, and elsewhere, meaning that it was able to remove bacteria that contribute to gum disease and cavities.
Not an Alternative to Brushing or Flossing
However, researchers were quick to point out that this doesn’t mean chewing gum is a substitute for flossing, brushing, or getting your regular dental checkup. The bacteria removed by chewing gum are likely different from those that are removed in brushing or flossing. It is probably true that you shouldn’t necessarily add gum to your regular oral hygiene routine, but this finding does show that as an occasional adjunct, chewing gum can be potentially helpful.
Chewing gum is one of the treatments available through the CariFree system, designed to provide you the maximum benefit from this habit.