One simple statement is the source of a tremendous oral care controversy:


“Chewing sugar-free gum helps to reduce cavities.”

Unfortunately, this sentence is both true and false. In this post, we’ll explain why chewing sugar-free gum can be an important cavity fighting habit, but why it can also be overhyped.

It’s a Good Habit

A chart that shows how chewing sugar-free gum helps to neutralize plaque acid.

Source: Jensen ME. “Responses of interproximal plaque pH to snack foods and effect of chewing sorbitol-containing gum” JADA, Vol. 113; 1986; 262-266.

There’s no denying that chewing sugar-free gum increases the production of saliva, which can help neutralize plaque acid, wash away food debris, and remineralize tooth enamel to help strengthen teeth. In the attached chart, you see how it elevates plaque-neutralizing acids after a meal. And since plaque is a main cause of cavities, chewing gum for 20 minutes after a meal is a good idea if you don’t have time to brush and/or rinse.

The Xylitol Controversy

Xylitol is one of the most popular sugar alternatives trending today and many gum brands use it to flavor their products. In fact, several dental associations agree and recommend it as a way to enjoy sweet flavors AND fight cavities at the same time.

But there is no consensus on xylitol’s cavity-fighting abilities. Earlier this year, The Journal of the American Dental Association published an article in which the researchers concluded: “These results suggest that xylitol used as a supplement in adults does not reduce their caries [cavities] experience significantly.”

Recommendation for Our Jacksonville Patients

Despite the xylitol controversy, chewing sugar-free gum is a good substitute for cavity protection in those crucial minutes after a meal or snack if brushing is not an option. However, we also want to stress that it’s the chewing and the saliva production that are the reasons for the protection and NOT the additives included in the gum.

For more information on this or any other oral health topic, feel free to contact our office. We’re always willing to discuss best practices and oral care products with our Jacksonville patients.