Is chewing gum good or bad?

May 26, 2011 2:55:26 PM PDT
I usually talk about the health benefits of juicy fruit. Now, let's talk about the gum. First, there's one bubble about gum I'd like to pop: The misconception that it's bad for your teeth. Studies show otherwise. And there are some other details about chewing gum that you might not know.

At Economy Candy on the Lower East Side, it is sugar addict central - candies made famous years ago, including gums such as Double Bubble and Bazooka bubble gum, Fruit Stripe, Chiclets, even kosher gum.

It's longevity as a confection speaks to its popularity, but there's that age-old bugaboo.

The sugar in gum is something parents have always worried about and the risk of cavities, but chewing gum may not be that bad, says Professor Mark Wolff.

"Actually, sugared chewing gums are not as dangerous to the mouth as one might expect. Because the sugar doesn't stay in the gum very long," Wolff, D.D.S., PhD at NYU School of Dentistry, said.

The saliva that it stimulates can neutralize acids from foods that can damage tooth enamel and chewing can dislodge food particles. Dr. Wolff says studies show the benefits of chewing gum far outweigh its risks, but prolonged chewing can cause jaw muscle pain and even irritation of the jaw joint near the ear.

A couple tips if you chew gum. Don't chew a big wad of gum. That can put a strain on the jaw muscles. Also, stop chewing a piece of gum when it becomes hard in your mouth, for the same reason.

Of course, there's always sugarless gum and there are some gums to chew which contain chemicals that can heal damaged tooth enamel.

Dr. Wolff does warn that chewing gum all the time can put the teeth at risk for mechanical damage such as chipping a tooth, or could lead to a shorter than normal life of a filling. He recommends chewing gum, as with most things, in moderation.