By Kate Ranta on Apr 19, 2016 @ 09:00 AM
We hear the plea every time we visit our dentist: floss to keep your mouth healthy and your gums strong. But what if we chew gum? Is it as effective as floss? Does that mean we can ditch it and keep our great smiles?
Well, the answer is yes and no. Here are the facts about chewing gum vs. flossing and which one really works to keep your mouth healthiest.
A study last year in The Netherlands’ journal Plos One revealed that there are indeed benefits to chewing gum—for as long as up to 10 minutes only. After that period of time, the benefits diminish. In a nutshell, the study showed that spearmint gum does catch and then remove as much as 100 million bacteria from inside your mouth when chewed for up to 10 minutes. And in a parallel experiment, research demonstrated that flossing removed an amount of bacteria quite similar to the amount removed by chewing spearmint gum for up to 10 minutes.
Looks a like a tie, right? Not so fast.
A closer look at the details
Dentists have weighed in on the pros and cons of chewing gum vs. flossing and concluded that while chewing sugarless gum is beneficial, the benefits of flossing outweigh those of gum chewing.
Here are a few words of caution:
- If you cannot floss after a meal, chewing sugarless gum is a good substitute and certainly better than doing nothing to remove bacteria buildup.
- Chewing gum simply does not reach every part of your mouth. We tend to chew on one side and miss the teeth way in back. Only proper flossing techniques can remove the bacteria buildup from every part of the mouth.
- The type of gum you chew matters. It is best to choose a sugar-free spearmint gum. Orbit brand gum, which contains Xylitol, a type of sweetener that acts to prevent bacteria buildup, is a good one to chew.
Why chew gum at all? The answer is prevention
It turns out that chewing sugarless gum for a few minutes does help to prevent plaque and increase your flow of saliva—both of which work to prevent cavities and gum disease from forming.
But the bottom line is that dentists were right all along. It is best to floss regularly. When that is not practical, however, reaching for that stick of sugarless spearmint gum works in a pinch, too. That’s great news for keeping your smile bright.