Is chewing gum bad or good for your dental wellbeing? This question has been debated for years. During some eras, oral-healthcare practitioners thought gum chewing was a positive practice, while in other time periods dental pros frowned on it. Recently, researchers took another look and revealed some positive findings.
Original Uses for Gum
Gum has been around for eons, but its formula and reasons for being chewed have changed over the years. For example:
- Ancient Mayans made gum from sapodilla tree sap and chewed it to ward off angst.
- Greeks in ancient times chomped down on mastic gum, also known as mastiche, to keep their mouths busy and moist.
- In the 19th Century, gum was formed into sticks from ingredients such as chalk, licorice root, and myrrh. People chewed it to make their breath smell fresh and whiten their teeth.
- During the early 20th Century, bubble gum was created. It was pink because that was the color available to the inventor at the gum factory. Humans learned to blow bubbles for fun, and to add a few more chuckles, tiny cartoons were tucked into the bubble gum wrappers.
1970s and 80s
During the 70s and 80s, oral-health specialists began to question the oral hygiene benefits of chewing gum. Dental professionals during this era thought:
- Gum didn’t reduce plaque unless combined with tooth brushing and flossing.
- The sugars and acidic ingredients in gum could cause harm to tooth enamel.
On the positive side, dentists in the 70s and 80s also thought:
- Sugarless gum could dilute sugar and lower pH levels inside mouths.
- Gum munching could reduce the number of ear infections chewers experienced.
Today’s Researchers Explore Microbes
Recently, a team of researchers took a look at microbes in sinuses and respiratory tracts of gum chewers. They wanted to find out:
- More details about the human microbiome related to dental cavities.
- If gum chewing could reduce the amount of pathogens in a human mouth.
Positive Findings in Recent Study
The study ‘s methods consisted of volunteers chewing sugarless gums that contained sorbitol and other ingredients for varied time periods, such as ten minutes or thirty seconds. After the volunteers chewed pieces of gum, researchers studied the amount of bacteria in each masticated piece. They found:
- Each wad of chewed gum contained lots (100-million) of bacteria.
- Highest concentrations of bacteria were found in the gum chewed the shortest time periods.
- Gum could eradicate transient bacteria that were looking for a place to colonize.
Over the centuries, the ingredients in gum have changed and so have the reasons people chew it. From whitening teeth, having fun, and eradicating bacteria in the mouth, it appears that chomping on a stick of gum can contribute to wellbeing.