It’s perhaps one of the most common questions brought to the doors of dentists and pharmacists on a daily basis:
Is chewing gum actually good for you?
These days, we’ve come to know chewing gum as something of an additional oral health and hygiene contributor in its own right. When not within easy reach of an effective electric toothbrush or cheap water flosser, we know that gum can tide us over in the meantime.
Or at least, that’s what we’re told.
But when taking into account everything that’s known about gum in a scientific sense, is chewing gum a good thing or a bad thing? Particularly in the case of those who chew gum somewhat habitually, is it having a positive or negative effect on their health?
What Is Chewing Gum?
In order to answer the question, it’s important to first consider what chewing gum actually is. While every chewing gum recipe will be somewhat unique, the basic formula required to create chewing gum remains similar across all products.
The basic ingredients going into chewing gum being as follows:
- Gum: The substance that makes the final product chewy.
- Resin: Usually added to ensure the gum doesn’t fall to pieces in the mouth.
- Fillers: Fillers are used to affect the texture and consistency of the gum.
- Preservatives: These are used to extend the shelf life of the final product.
- Softeners: These prevent chewing gum products from going hard while in their packaging.
- Sweeteners: Chewing gum may be sweetened with artificial sweeteners or traditional sugars.
- Flavourings: Synthetic or natural flavourings are added to give the final product its characteristic flavour.
Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of manufacturers aren’t in the habit of sharing their exact formulas. Nevertheless, it’s usually safe to assume that the formula follows the standard outline as above.
But in terms of how all of this translates to a healthy product or otherwise, what are the known benefits of chewing gum? Why should more people get into the habit of chewing gum on a regular basis?
Chewing Gum Protects Teeth and Reduces Bad Breath
First and foremost, chewing gum represents a tried, tested and approved approach to boosting everyday oral health and hygiene. Of course, this only applies to sugar-free gum – any gum that contains sugar posing a potential risk to the health of your teeth and gums.
Chewing gum is good for oral health and hygiene because the chewing action itself encourages the mouth to produce saliva in larger quantities. Saliva being the mouth’s single most effective defence against bacteria and general ill health. What’s more, the flavour of the gum can also have a similar effect, making the mouth water and therefore produce more saliva.
The combination of more saliva and the minty flavour of the gum can therefore help maintain fresh breath throughout the day. Sugarless gum in some instances reduces the bad bacteria in the mouth by up to 75% and therefore gains the whole-hearted recommendation of dentists worldwide.
Chewing Gum Could Help You Lose Weight
Believe it or not, chewing gum has also been linked with more impressive success rates among those looking to lose weight. This is because chewing gum serves as the kind of sweet treat you can enjoy, without having to worry about its calorie content. Sugar-free gum contains almost no calories whatsoever.
Studies have shown that chewing gum can have a marked reduction on the respective person’s appetite. It’s something to do with the way in which the chewing action and the hit of flavour have a two-level effect on the brain, effectively fooling it into thinking you’re eating something. This in turn reduces the person’s appetite and can potentially eliminate cravings for unhealthy foods and drinks.
In addition, chewing stronger minty gum significantly reduces the appeal of eating or drinking various examples of unhealthy snacks and treats. When your mouth is filled with a strong minty flavour, you’re far less likely to crave certain snacks and drinks.
Of course, it’s important to acknowledge the fact that chewing gum alone isn’t going to help you lose weight. Nevertheless, include gum in a wider weight loss strategy and you may find that it has a marked impact on your ability to stick with the program.
Chewing Gum Can Reduce Stress and Boost Memory
Research has also shown that chewing gum can have a beneficial effect on a variety of cognitive functions. From memory to alertness to decision-making and so on, the effect chewing gum has on the brain can be no less than remarkable. In fact, studies suggest that chewing gum can improve long-term memory by up to 36% and short-term memory by 24%.
Exactly why this happens remains something of a mystery. Nevertheless, many attribute it to the fact that the chewing action increases blood flow to the brain, while at the same time reducing levels of stress hormones like cortisol. The less stressed and anxious we feel, the better our capacity to remember things – short-term and long-term alike.
This is precisely why many experts recommend chewing gum when dealing with things like exams and other stressful everyday events. It might not make the biggest difference, but could at least make some difference.
What About the Downsides?
Of course, there will always be those who argue against arbitrary use of chewing gum, insisting that it has the potential to prove problematic. If you’re going to chew gum, it’s important that you stick with sugarless gum from a brand you can trust.
The simple fact of the matter is this – ask just about any dentist worldwide and they’ll tell you chewing gum is something you really should be doing on a daily basis. Carry a pack with you at all times and you’ll be doing your oral health and hygiene a world of good!