Bubble gum – that sweet, messy, noisy, and fun activity engaged in by children since the year of 1893 – is it helpful or harmful to the oral health of children?
Grandparents, parents, teachers, and others have asked this question since its induction into the market. The truth of the matter is, there is no simple answer to this question. It has been established that many additives placed in gum are harmful.
Excessive chewing may be harmful.
Chewing in combination with poor dental hygiene is harmful. However, there is a good side, too. In some instances, chewing gum may prove to be productive to the oral health of a child. This is quite surprising, right?
Is Gum Chewing a Habit That May Be Detrimental for the Oral Health of Children?
The Sugar Filled Bubble Treat
Most children love bubble gum. In fact, there are millions upon millions of adults that also love this typically sugar-filled bubble producing treat.
Fancy packaging, creative features, distinctive characteristics that are vibrant, fun, and exciting – who wouldn’t enjoy it?
The truth of the matter is, if a child chews gum that contains sugar, it is bad for their dental health.
There are many types of bacteria within the mouth that actually feed off of the sugar in chewing gum and will create acids that will act negatively in the mouth. It will eat through the protective enamel on each of the teeth. When this enamel wears away, cavities will start to develop.
If your child’s gum includes sugar, take it away now. Immediately replace the treat with a chewing gum that is sugar-free. In most instances, the sugarless options taste just as good – if not better – than those loaded with sugar.
The Sugarless Sensation
Now, if you provide your child with sugarless gum, it may prove to be beneficial to their dental health. There have been numerous studies performed that have concluded that chewing gum without sugar as an added ingredient following meals and snacks help in rinsing off acids or completely neutralizing acids left behind by the food products that the child indulged in.
You may wonder how this happens.
It is really quite simple. Both the act of chewing and the unique flavor of the gum that the child chews aids in stimulating the amount of saliva that is contained within the mouth. The additional saliva helps to wash away potentially harmful substances and it is capable of neutralizing those substances.
Children should actually be encouraged to chew sugarless gum so that they may experience a dental health boost.
If children are not informed that they are chewing sugarless gum, they probably won’t even notice the difference – in terms of taste.
Most sugarless chewing gums contain an artificial sweetener that is known as “Xylitol”. According to studies, this ingredient actually inhibits the growth of a bacteria that is commonly found in the mouth. Specifically, Streptococcus mutans.
This actually causes cavities within the mouth.
If you purchase gum for a child in your life, look for those products that contain this very helpful ingredient. As they chew this type of gum, this potentially dangerous form of bacteria will be unable to attach itself to their teeth.
In the long run, you will find that they experience fewer bouts of cavity activity and that their dental health is much better, overall.
This is one of the main and most surprising benefits associated with chewing gum. While not all sugarless options contain this ingredient, most do.
When Gum Should Be Avoided
Generally speaking, sugarless gum is a healthy option for a child; however, there are instances where a child should not chew gum at all.
The two main ones are if a child wears braces and if they have TMJ disorder. The braces issue is obvious – gum could stick to and damage the various components of the braces. TMJ is a bit more complicated.
Many kids may not have a direct diagnosis, but they may display the symptoms of the disorder – such as headaches, pain in the jaw, and soreness in and around the facial region. If you child is exhibiting any unusual complaints associated with the teeth, the jaw, or the facial area and they are gum chewers, you should encourage them to avoid engaging in the activity and you should set up an appointment with a pediatric dentist as quickly as possible.
We here at Richmond Pediatric Dentistry are capable of helping. For more information, give us a call today at: 765-966-7602