Your oral & dental health A-Z oral health information Sugar free chewing gum What is sugar-free gum? Sugar-free gum does not have any sugar in it. The taste is added using sweeteners, and therefore the gum does not cause tooth decay. The gum releases its flavours over a period of time, just like ordinary gum. Why is chewing sugar-free gum good for my teeth and gums? Chewing sugar-free gum helps protect your teeth and gums in between meals when it may not be possible to brush with a toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Your teeth are more at risk of acid attack after you have eaten. The acid is produced by plaque bacteria, and the sugars in our food and drink, and it slowly dissolves away the enamel and dentine of the tooth, to produce a hole or ‘cavity'. (Plaque is the thin, sticky film that keeps forming on your teeth. It contains many types of bacteria which can cause tooth decay and gum disease.) You can reduce this acid attack by chewing sugar-free gum, as it helps the mouth to produce more saliva - the mouth's natural defence against acid. Can sugar-free gum help to protect against dental erosion? Dental erosion is caused by the acids in the things we eat and drink, such as citrus fruit, fruit juices and fizzy drinks. These start to eat into the enamel covering the teeth, and remove some of the minerals making up the enamel. By helping us make more saliva, chewing sugar-free gum can also help to reduce this type of acid attack. It takes the saliva about an hour to replace the minerals that the enamel has lost. Chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after eating or drinking can increase the flow of saliva, and help replace the minerals more quickly. See the diagram below. It shows how your tooth enamel is at risk from acid attack after food and drink, and how long it takes the acid level in the mouth to return to the safe zone. pH is the measure of acidity, with levels below 5.5 being acid enough to soften tooth enamel. Chewing sugar-free gum after eating can quickly lower the amount of acid that attacks the teeth. Can chewing sugar-free gum help with dry mouth and bad breath? Dry mouth and bad breath are often caused by a reduced saliva flow. When you chew sugar-free gum your mouth makes more saliva and the symptoms of dry mouth and bad breath may be reduced. What is Xylitol and where does it come from? Xylitol is a natural sweetener and is found in some berries, fruit, vegetables and mushrooms. It has a sweetness equal to that of sugar. Xylitol is usually made from birch bark. Why is Xylitol especially good for my teeth? Xylitol helps to prevent plaque bacteria sticking to the teeth. Studies have shown that xylitol can help reduce tooth decay and even help reverse the decay itself by helping to replace the minerals in tooth enamel. When should I chew sugar-free gum? It is best to chew soon after eating. Chewing for up to twenty minutes increases the flow of saliva, speeding up the time that it takes for saliva to cancel out the acid. Remember that plaque starts to form again within half an hour of cleaning your teeth. How many times a day can you chew? It is recommended to chew sugar free gum after eating and drinking on the go. Is sugar-free gum safe to use for children? We do not recommend that children under the age of seven chew gum. But this is something for parents to decide. Is sugar-free gum suitable for vegetarians Some chewing gums can contain animal glycerine and are not suitable for vegetarians. However, most sugar-free gums now only contain a type of non-animal glycerine and are suitable for vegetarians. Can I chew sugar-free gum if I have dentures or braces? People with certain types of dentures may find that sugar-free gum sticks to the teeth and palate of the denture. Sugar-free gum is not recommended if you have a brace. Do I still need to brush my teeth if I've used chewing gum? Yes. You will still need to brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, and clean in between your teeth with interdental brushes or floss at least once a day to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Is there a difference between the gum sticks and gum pellets? The main difference between sticks and pellets is the size. Pellets tend to be smaller than sticks so they may be better for children and people with smaller mouths. What happens if I swallow the gum? There is no evidence that swallowing gum is harmful. Swallowed gum will pass through your system like any other food, although it may take a little longer. How should I get rid of my sugar-free gum? Sugar-free gum can make a mess just like ordinary gum if you drop it on the floor or stick it to a surface. Wrap it and then put it in a bin. Can sugar-free gum whiten my teeth? Some sugar-free chewing gums have a ‘whitening' claim. Although these products cannot lighten the natural colour of your teeth, they may help to lessen any staining which could build-up on your teeth due to smoking, or drinking red wine or coffee. People who viewed this page also visited... Diet Tooth decay Tooth whitening Need more advice? If you need free and impartial advice about your oral health, contact our Dental Helpline by email or call 01788 539780 (local rate call in the UK). Our Dental Helpline is completely confidential and has helped almost 400,000 people since opening over 20 years ago. Contact our experts by telephone, email or online enquiry, Monday to Friday, 09:00 - 17:00. Thank you to Wrigley, who have kindly provided us with an Educational Grant for this information. Wrigley's support does not only allow us to develop and maintain this advice online but means that we can continue to provide this vital resource as a printed leaflet for dental practices and hospitals to hand out to patients and leave in waiting areas.