Sugar-Free Chewing Gum – What to Buy and What to Avoid at All Cost
If you like chewing gum, have you wondered – what is the best sugar-free chewing gum for your teeth?
The best chewing gum is one containing xylitol, as it reduces the bad bacteria-causing plaque and cavities.
As well as being sugar-free, there are other ingredients to avoid, which I will discuss, along with more, today.
What to Look Out for With Sugar-Free Chewing Gum
Not all sugar-free chewing gums are perfect. Plenty of brands contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame.
A very disputable ingredient, claims have been made that it causes a range of issues, including headaches, obesity, and cancer.
Artificial sweeteners can also upset your taste buds, throwing them into a state of confusion.
As they’re so sweet, they basically make your taste buds expect a higher level of sweetness.
This makes it difficult for you to be satiated by naturally sweet foods, instead, you’ll crave sweeter foods.
Most gums also have an interesting base.
I will discuss this under the sub-heading “What is Sugar-Free Chewing Gum Made From”.
Are There Negative Health Effects with Sugar-Free Chewing Gum?
The negative health effects of sugar-free chewing gums can vary, based on the ingredients they contain, or your actions:
- The phenylalanine in aspartame can be dangerous. If you have the inherited disorder phenylketonuria (PKU).
- If you’re allergic to aspartame, you can break out in hives on your body, as well as have gastrointestinal or respiratory problems.
- Excessive use of the sugar alcohols that are used to sweeten sugar-free gum can have a laxative effect.
Meaning, chewing a lot of sugar-free gum could lead to diarrhea.
Rare cases have also reported severe, unwelcome weight loss.
In addition, all sugar alcohols are FODMAPs, which means they could cause digestive issues for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
However, those who can’t tolerate FODMAPs can choose a gum that’s sweetened with a low-calorie sweetener, such as stevia.
- Chewing gum too often could cause unbearable jaw pain, as the action of constantly chewing could lead to Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ). Though research on this is limited.
- Research has shown that a connection between those who regularly chew gum and are prone to getting migraines or tension headaches.
Though more research is needed to uncover whether the chewing gum is really causing the headaches, those who suffer from migraines may want to restrict their gum chewing.
People with braces should also avoid chewing gum, as it could potentially damage your braces.
Where to Buy Sugar-Free Chewing Gum?
If looking for a gum that contains CPP-ACP (see the sub-heading below for more details), you can get this online or from your Dentist, as it’s not yet popular enough in Australia to be sold at supermarkets.
Or, more online-only purchases that do not have CPP-ACP include:
Other conventional sugar-free gums that are noticed to have possible benefits for your oral health can be purchased from your local supermarket, including:
What is Sugar-Free Chewing Gum Made From?
As mentioned, there has been a rise in a new group of natural, sugar-free, “clean” gums.
These are organic, allergen-free (i.e., do not contain soy or gluten), and free from any artificial sweeteners.
Instead, many of them are made with natural sugar alcohols like xylitol and erythritol.
Research has shown it lessens the acid production of oral bacteria.
To choose the best sugar-free chewing gum, there are a few important things to look for, which I have listed below.
Consider Sugar Alcohols
To be labelled clean”, gums don’t need to be sugar-free. However, it’s best to go this route, especially if you chew a lot of gum.
Not only is it one less source of sugar that can cause tooth decay, the sugar alcohols such as xylitol, but erythritol and sorbitol also protect your teeth.
Avoid Ingredients such as Aspartame When Possible
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener commonly found in sugar-free foods.
It’s highly controversial and has been claimed to cause a range of problems.
Though research is weak or non-existent, there are also no studies that say that it is good for us, such as those on sugar alcohols.
If you only chew gum on the odd occasion, more natural sweeteners such as cane sugar or agave syrup are okay.
Learn What the Base of the Gum Consists Of
Many gums have a base made of synthetic rubbers, emulsifiers, BHT (a preservative), and polyvinyl acetate (a plastic).
Studies are done (mainly on animals) show that using emulsifiers, BHT, and polyvinyl acetate as a gum base is safe.
However, some even contain titanium dioxide (an ingredient that is normally found in sunscreen).
Research has shown this can suppress the capability of the cells in your small intestine to absorb nutrients, and act as a blockade to germs.
So, it’s easy to understand if you’re not overly delighted by the idea of chewing on these ingredients.
Instead, many gums have gone back to using a base made from chicle.
Natural tree sap that gum was made from to stick together until it increased in popularity in the 1940s.
Avoid Food Acids
A key is to avoid citrus flavours such as orange, lemon, or lime, as these contain acids that have been added for flavour but hurt your teeth.
While they have a vibrant appealing taste, they undo the benefits you get from the extra saliva made while chewing.
This is because they react with the calcium in your saliva, limiting its capacity to keep the teeths’ enamel strong.
A study has shown that the acid can dissolve the teeth’s hard tissues, eroding the surface layers of their enamel.
After this it can then expose their dentine or even the pulp (the soft centre), causing severe pain.
Other flavours of sugar-free gum, such as mint, are a great option instead, as these are less likely to be erosive.
The ingredient to look for is a “food acid” additive, with a code such as 330, which is citric acid.
They are generally easy to spot, as the manufacturers’ have usually painted the packaging with pictures of citrus fruits.
Look for Special Milk Proteins
If you want gum that’s really good for your teeth, look for sugar-free gum that contains special milk proteins.
These carry and release calcium and phosphate, the minerals required to repair your teeth.
These proteins are called casein phosphopeptide-amorphous calcium phosphate (CPP-ACP).
Many different brands contain these proteins. Generally, they’re more expensive than the other sugar-free varieties.
They have been known to assist with slowing down the process of tooth decay, especially if caught early when it has not yet turned into a large cavity.
This means it’s still able to be turned around, and the structure of the teeth can be returned to as good as, if not better than, what it first was.
Recent studies done into gum containing CPP-ACP shows that not only can it help bring minerals back into the teeth.
It can also help significantly reduce the level of bad bacteria in the mouth.
However, gums that contain CPP-ACP shouldn’t be used by anyone who is allergic to milk proteins.
Best Natural Sugar-Free Chewing Gum Alternatives
If you feel the need to chew something, there are alternatives to sugar-free gum that will entertain your jaw.
- Licorice root – An acquired taste, but studies have shown that licorice root can help reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth that cause cavities and tooth decay.
- Ginger – Ginger contains raffinose and gingerol, which have been shown to reduce inflammation and pain, and lessen the bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease. Simply chew on a small slice of fresh, peeled ginger until you feel relieved from any oral pain.
- Parsley – Parsley is a great way to freshen your breath, as it’s naturally antibacterial, so excellent for your oral health. Chewing parsley can help get rid of the harmful bacteria in your mouth that can cause gum disease and tooth decay.
- Mint Leaves – Similar to parsley, this is a fresh herb that’s great to chew on to get fresh breath. Mint also offers other benefits such as healthy gums and teeth, as it has both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Do Natural Sugar-Free Gums Work for Bad Breath?
Sugar-free chewing gum is the only food that is allowed under Australia’s food standard regulations to make any declarations that it can improve oral health.
Manufacturers’ can declare that natural, sugar-free chewing gum contributes to tooth mineralisation and plaque acids being neutralised.
Only if the gum doesn’t reduce the pH of the plaque under 5.7 within 30 minutes of being consumed.
Many studies have shown that chewing gum is highly effective at trapping and ridding bacteria from your mouth.
- A study done in 2015 showed that chewing sugar-free gum for 10 minutes could remove up to 100 million bacteria from the mouth.
- Further clinical studies have shown that chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after eating can help stop you getting tooth decay.
- Another study found that chewing xylitol-sweetened gum caused the number of bad bacteria in the mouth to lower by up to 75%.
- More research has shown that chewing sugar-free gum lessens plaque from developing, relieves symptoms of a dry mouth, counteracts acids, restores minerals to tooth enamel, and could help lessen the occurrence of tooth decay.
How does gum do all of this?
Well, it’s an easy, effective way to increase your flow of saliva, helping wash away harmful sugars and food debris, which will limit the number of bad bacteria growing in your mouth.
Chewing sugar-free gum can make your saliva cells larger and more efficient, impacting the types of bacteria growing in your mouth.
So, it can help those who are at risk of tooth decay, cavities, and bad breath.
Just remember that it’s not a replacement for a good dental regime, and shouldn’t be used instead of brushing your teeth.
What’s your favourite sugar-free chewing gum?
By Andrew Adams
Created at June 25, 2021, Updated at June 25, 2021