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The debate has raged on for years: is letting your kids enjoy chewing gum strengthening their teeth or ruining them? Finally, here are some of the answers you’ve been looking for.
The Short Answer: It Depends
Not much of a help, is it? Well, it’s true – the effects that chewing gum has on your kid’s health are varied, simply because there are different kinds of gum on the market. The ones that are the worst for your kid’s dental health are most certainly those that have sugar in them.
While the regular chewing motion that you get from gum encourages the production of saliva, the body’s natural way to clean the teeth, chewing sugared gum introduces a food source to the bacteria in your mouth that can help them grow, even with the additional saliva. That’s why it’s preferable to ensure your kids chew sugar-free gum, or gum that’s been sweetened with Xylitol – this artificial sweetener actually limits bacterial growth instead of encouraging it.
The Long Answer: It Still Depends
The chewing gum question is a complex one, and there are as many reasons to promote gum chewing in kids as there are to prevent it. Chewing sugarless gum is a great way to strengthen the jaw and ensure that blood flow to the jawbone remains high, resulting in nutrient-rich blood strengthening such an important area of the mouth. Yet at the same time, and in specific instances, gum chewing in kids is most certainly not a good idea.
Putting aside the sheer annoyance of having to listen to a kid smacking their lips incessantly for hours, there are medical reasons for not letting your child chew gum. Kids with braces or other orthodontic work need to avoid chewing gum to ensure the bands, brackets, and wires don’t become entangled with the sticky stuff. Additionally, chewing gum can make the symptoms of TMJ worse needlessly, making it a major no-no for those trying to keep up with good oral health.
Still confused? Haven’t heard back from your dental office yet? There are a few ground rules that you can keep in mind when it comes to safe gum chewing.
First, make sure you’re not buying sugared gum. Sugar-free or sweetened with Xylitol is the best bet if you’re worried about keeping your kid’s teeth clean. Also, limiting gum chewing to after meals might actually help keep your kids’ mouths cleaner than not.
Secondly, limit the amount of time your kid is allowed to chew gum. Most kids can happily gnaw away at a piece of gum for hours at a time without even realizing, so limiting them to 30 minutes a day or less gives them plenty of chew time without risking long-term damage.
Finally, don’t neglect your kid’s regular dental health practices! Ensure they brush and floss at least twice a day and visit the dentist regularly.
Still Not Sure? Talk to Your Dentist
Figuring out whether chewing gum is safe for your kid’s oral health is a complex process, as there are no quick and easy answers to give you. However, if you still don’t know what to do – or you’re afraid you’ll make a mistake that might cost your kid their dental health – turn to the experts and call up your local family dentist for some much-needed advice.
Your family dental office will have oral health practitioners that don’t just know what’s best for teeth in general – they’ll also know you and your kids. Based on the medical history and dental development of your kids, your family dentist office can provide you with clear guidance on what’s best for your kids when it comes to whether or not it’s safe for them to chew gum.
Talk to me in the comments, please:
What is your stance on the chewing gum debate?