Candy can be a dentist’s worst nightmare. Patients who eat lots of candy tend to get lots of cavities, as well as many other dental problems. But not all candy is bad for teeth. Some candy can even be good for your teeth. Today, let’s look at chewing gum, including which chewing gum is best for your teeth, and how it differs from other types of chewing gum. We’ve updated this post in 2023 to give you more types of gum that are good for your teeth, and updated information to help you find other brands, too.
What Makes Gum Good For Your Teeth?
First, are candies and gum actually bad for your teeth? In general, candy or chewing gum is bad for your teeth when the ingredients that go into them primarily consist of sugar or corn syrups that behave similarly to sugar. Lots of sugar provides food for the bacteria that tend to sit on teeth, which can cause them to reproduce, creating more acid, which can eat into your teeth and cause cavities.
Not all chewing gum uses sugar as a sweetener, however. Many chewing gums and mints use a sugar substitute called xylitol. Xylitol is sweet, like sugar, but it actually has a much different chemical structure, which makes it better for your teeth.
Xylitol is a type of sugar alcohol derived from birch or beech trees, rice, oat, wheat or cotton husks, and corn cobs. In chemistry, the word ‘alcohol’ simply means that the substance is a type of organic compound that contains at least one hydroxyl ( −OH) functional group bound to a carbon atom. Sugar alcohols shouldn’t be confused with ethanol, which is present in beer, wine, or spirits.
This unique structure gives xylitol some unique properties. For example, the bacteria in your mouth can’t use xylitol to grow, like it does with other sugars. Furthermore, xylitol has been shown to slow the growth of bacteria that cause dental caries, or cavities. This means that chewing gum containing xylitol can actually be good for your teeth! Chewing gum also stimulates saliva production, which can help wash away bacteria and keep your teeth cleaner, and your breath fresher.
Which Chewing Gum is Best for Your Teeth?
Xylitol is used in mouthwashes, toothpastes and even chewing gum to sweeten products without the need of sugar. Here are some chewing gum brands that use xylitol as a sweetener, to the joy of parents and dentists everywhere.
B-Fresh is a vegan and gluten free chewing gum that uses no salts or sugar. With .85 grams of xylitol in every piece, B-Fresh contains more xylitol than any other chewing gum on the market. With four flavors to choose from, B-Fresh is a gum that both patients and dentists can agree on chewing. According to the B-Fresh website, “B-FRESH ® Products contain no sugar, salt or preservatives. The patented formula combining xylitol, calcium and B-12 vitamins enables B-FRESH ® to outperform any breath product on the market today.”
Containing .72 grams of xylitol in every piece, Spry gum offers consumers a product that will not only taste delicious, but will help protect their mouths. With five minty and fruity varieties, Spry gum is great for any age group that wishes to protect their mouths from cavities, without sacrificing taste.
Containing the same amount of xylitol as Spry, this dentist-approved chewing gum will keep your breath fresh and your teeth clean. Xylichew can help reduce harmful bacteria in your mouth. According to the Xylichew website, “Xylitol gum helps oral care by slowing the rate and amount of acid production in the mouth reducing the acid-producing bacteria that erode tooth enamel. Not only that, Xylichew also helps bad breath, dry mouth and promotes fresh breath! Imagine that, a natural xylitol sweetener that tastes great and promotes healthier teeth.”
PUR gum “is sweetened with 100% xylitol,” according to the PUR website, which is about 1.1 grams of xylitol per piece. With 8 different flavors, there’s plenty of variation to appeal to every taste. This gum can be found at many checkout aisles, though it’s generally a bit more expensive than some other well-known brands.
Many people will be delighted to find out that sugar-free varieties of Trident also contain xylitol, making it healthier to chew than most chewing gums found by the checkout line. While it may not contain as much xylitol as the gums featured above (Trident contains .17 grams of xylitol per piece), this gum will last for a long time and is easy to find at most grocery stores and gas stations.
Other Chewing Gums That Are Good For Your Teeth
This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list of the chewing gum brands that use xylitol. Companies all over the world use xylitol in their products. Remember that trace amounts of xylitol probably won’t be effective, so check the ingredients before assuming that the gum will help prevent bacteria growth.
It’s also important to remember that xylitol is not safe for pets. Finally, about 5 grams of xylitol daily can help you keep your teeth healthy, but too much xylitol can cause digestive issues, especially for those with sensitive stomachs.
As always, brushing, flossing, and visiting your dentist are the most important ways to protect your teeth. Chewing gums that are good for your teeth can help add a bit of extra protection, while also freshening your breath, but they should not be used as a substitute for twice-daily brushing.