Parents are constantly worried about how sugar affects their children’s teeth. Chewing gum, or bubble gum, is especially a concern as it contains sugar and children love to chew it. But can bubble gum actually be good for your child’s teeth? When sugarless, gum can actually help prevent cavities by increasing saliva flow. Read on to find out the pros and cons of bubble gum, and how gum can actually help your child’s oral health!
As adults, we take every measure possible to protect our permanent, adult teeth because they are with us for the majority of our life. Baby teeth, on the other hand, are temporary, but they pave the way for our future, adult teeth. Although they sometimes are overlooked, baby teeth, or primary teeth, are important to maintain for a few reasons. They begin forming before the child is born and typically begin erupting at 4 months of age. They groom the path for adult teeth to follow once they begin erupting, and they are important for speaking and eating in young children. Baby teeth also allow for normal jaw and muscle development, but if they have any decay, this can possibly affect the permanent teeth that will replace them. Baby teeth perform multiple functions during a child’s growth and development, but they can be easy targets for tooth decaying plaque and cavities. One area of concern affecting children’s vulnerable teeth is the sticky sweetness of chewing gum as it’s notoriously known to cause cavities and tooth decay in baby teeth. But can chewing good actually be GOOD for your child’s teeth?
Chewing gum, most commonly known as bubble gum, has been around for a long time. During ancient times, it was formed from tree saps, but today it’s created from a mixture of synthetic materials, like elastomers, resins, and waxes. Since then, we have been able to learn about the good and the bad of chewing gum and what it does to our oral health. To answer the question about whether chewing gum is good for children’s teeth, the answer is yes, but it depends on what kind. Chewing gum can actually help prevent tooth decay, as long as it is sugarless. It causes your mouth to produce more saliva as you chew, which helps neutralize and rinse away leftover acid that forms as your mouth breaks down food. Chewing sugar-free gum can prevent cavities whenever it’s chewed because bacteria won’t be able to produce the same amount of acid without the sugar needed for bacteria to feed on. There will still be an increased amount of saliva flow, which will help rinse the mouth of the little acid that is there.
Gum sweetened with sugar, like most bubble gums, contributes to the likelihood of cavities as it reacts with the bacteria in dental plaque to produce enamel-eroding acids. This type of gum can do significant damage to teeth, especially baby teeth, because it doesn’t dissolve and can get pressed against teeth for longer periods of time, even more than candy. When your child chews sugar-filled or flavored gum, the costs outweigh the benefits of chewing as it contributes to the buildup of plaque on teeth. Many times, though, your child will be presented with gum sweetened with sugar without the option of sugarless gum, so take the time to explain to your child the harmful effects that excess sugar has on our teeth and encourage them to brush, or at least rinse, after chewing gum.
If you decide to let your child chew gum, there are variety of sugarless gum that they can have that can be just as enjoyable as the sugary bubble gum that they’re used to, but without the detrimental effects to teeth that normally follows from chewing sugary gum. As a parent, the best way to prevent tooth decay in young children is being dedicated to a daily oral hygiene routine that involves brushing and flossing, plus providing good nutrition so that their teeth can get all of the vitamins they need. Especially for young children who are still learning how to properly brush and floss, make sure to supervise them and show them what to do. Even before your child begins chewing gum, commit to regular dental exams, which should begin when the first tooth erupts or at their first birthday. Having regular visits with your dentist will better protect your child’s teeth as he or she can monitor your child’s teeth development and clean their teeth of any plaque.
If your child has a cavity or is due for their semi-annual cleaning, call Hardy Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics at (720) 887-6003 to set up their appointment. A healthy mouth is developed through a healthy lifestyle and a good oral hygiene regimen. Our dedicated staff is here to help your child manage their oral health and improve their smile!