Summer fun means more time outdoors, more time with friends, and more afternoon snacks. Picking the right treats is important. Dental health for children isn’t just about brushing and flossing properly, though those are vital. You already know how the bacteria on your teeth create acid from the food you eat, and that sticky, sugary foods can be the worst offenders.
You may have also heard that chewing gum can be good for your teeth. This is only partially true. Most gum has lots of sugar in it, and if you’ve ever had gum in your hair, you know how sticky that stuff is! Sugary gum is a feast for the bacteria that create cavities.
However, there is sugar-free gum that can actually be good for your teeth. The American Dental Association says:
The chewing of sugarless gum increases the flow of saliva, which washes away food and other debris, neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth and provides disease-fighting substances throughout the mouth. Increased saliva flow also carries with it more calcium and phosphate to help strengthen tooth enamel.
Sugar-free gum doesn’t have to taste bad. It often contains sweeteners other than sugar which the bacteria in your mouth can’t turn into acid.
If you want to be certain you’re chewing the right sort of gum, look for the ADA seal on the package, just like the one at the bottom of this web page. That way you’ll know it’s sugar-free (also just like this web page) and good for your teeth. If you don’t see the ADA seal, stick to soap bubbles which are more fun to chase and pop anyway.
If you chew gum a lot, be sure to use both sides of your mouth. Excessive gum-chewing, especially if you do it all on one side of your mouth, can cause Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). The Temporomandibular joint (or just the TMJ, since Temporomandibular is quite a mouthful) is the one that connects your jaw to your skull. Like any joint, regular use is good to keep it exercised, but too much use can wear it out. This can cause odd popping or even pain when chewing. If you have trouble opening your mouth, chewing, or your jaw seems to get stuck either open or closed, see your kids dentist as soon as possible. It may be TMD or it may be something much more serious. Either way, get it fixed now!
And remember that no matter what sort of gum you chew, nothing can replace brushing, flossing, and regular visits to your dentist.