Super Chew!

The super chew!


Like most us, you've probably been told that swallowed gum will stay in your stomach or intestines for 7 years or more.   As my 4 year old perpetuated this urban myth, it got me thinking about gum and I felt compelled  to share some of my learnings.


So first of all, let me correct the 7 year myth...  while gum is made of an indigestible fiber and cannot be digested, it doesn’t ‘stick around’ (excuse the pun) but instead pass through your system.


If you've been watching advertisements for popular brands of gum, you'll already know that gum can be good for reducing the risk of cavities.  


Here's how it works;

The physical act of chewing increases the flow of saliva in your mouth. Increased saliva flow helps neutralize and wash away the acids produced when food is broken down by bacteria in your mouth. Increased saliva flow also brings more calcium and phosphate into contact with your teeth.  These both help to strengthen tooth enamel.  


So if you choose sugarless gum, the chewing after eating will help increase saliva flow and help combat cavities without exposing teeth to sugar.


Some gums have added superpowers!  Well that's how I describe it to my 4 year old.


The gums I like most use a sweetener called Xylitol and Calcium Phosphopeptide. These two ingredients enhance the quality of saliva and help repair early staged of acid damage to teeth.  A popular brand is recaldent TM


I know it almost sounds too good to be true, but here's how it works...


Xylitol (a natrually dervied sweetener from plants) does not break down like regular sugar.  Because the cavity causing bacteria in the mouth are unable to digest xylitol, they die off. Studies show that as much a 90% of the acid-producing bacteria die off after 30 mins of chewing.  Xylitol also stops reduces the bacteria's ability to stick to tooth surfaces. In these two way Xylitol really help protect teeth.


Calcium Phosphopeptide (Melbourne University discovered the compound CCP-ACP) mimics the building blocks of tooth enamel and is shown to mineralize teeth after they have had acid attack.  That is to say, this compound can actually reverse the early effects of acid attack.


Careful not to chew too long.

Too much chewing can stress your jaw muscles and even trigger symptoms of  temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. Most people seem comfortable chewing for about 30 mins. If you are chewing for more than 30 mins stop and check if your jaw is feeling tight or strained.  Any headache, earache or jaw tenderness may be related to a TMJ disorder triggered by chewing.


Chewing can also have the unwanted side effect of increasing stomach activity (acid production and peristalsis). The act of chewing signals to the stomach that food is coming and your stomach then goes into preparation mode.  When the food doesn’t arrive all this activity can cause stomach cramps, diarrhea and in those with Irritable Bowel Syndrom (IBS), it can trigger symptoms.  


So key message when you choose to chew:

1) choose a sugarless gum

2) pick gum with added therapeutic agents (I like of Xylitol and Calcium Phosphopeptide)

3) chew only until the flavour has gone


So chews well!  


By Dr Valence Roberts