chewing gum and the wrapping foil on blackAmericans chew almost 2 pounds of gum every year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s quite a bit!

Don’t freak out though–chewing a lot of gum isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, as long as the gum is sugar-free, it’s a great thing! Chewing speeds up saliva production, and saliva plays a major role in your oral health.

Benefits of Increased Saliva Flow

When you chew, your salivary glands get to work, producing a clear liquid that kick-starts the digestion process. The saliva nourishes your teeth with vitamins and minerals and seals them with a protective layer. It also works to rinse your teeth, removing any trapped food particles and bacteria.

If you eat something acidic, the saliva in your mouth neutralizing the acids, pushing them down into your stomach and reducing the risk of heartburn.

Make Sure it’s Sugar-Free!

Chewing gum with sugar is just asking for trouble. Those sugars feed the bacteria in your mouth, allowing them to multiply and produce acids that damage your enamel.

Sugar-free gum isn’t bitter! The reason it isn’t harmful to your teeth is that your saliva cannot break down the type of sweetener present in the gum.

Chewing Gum Safety

While sugar-free gum comes with many health benefits, there are some potential dangers.

  • Lovely Golden Retriever stick its tongue out.While swallowing one or two pieces accidentally won’t bring you harm, swallowing a large amount of gum over a short period of time can lead to an intestinal blockage. Make sure kids don’t chew gum until they understand not to swallow it.
  • While safe for human consumption, xylitol, which is used in many sugar-free gums, can be lethal to dogs.
  • People who wear braces should avoid chewing gum. As you chew, it can wedge itself under brackets and wires, potentially loosening and bending them.

There is No Substitute for Brushing and Flossing!

Remember, nothing can take the place of your toothbrush and floss! Increasing saliva production can’t scrub the plaque off of your teeth and gums the way that brushing can.

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