What Happens When You Chew?
Chewing is a complex process that involves several different structures and muscles in the mouth, including the teeth, jaw, tongue, and salivary glands. When you chew, here’s what happens:
- The teeth break down food into smaller pieces.
- The tongue and cheeks move food around in your mouth, keeping it in contact with your teeth for better grounding.
- Saliva helps moisten and lubricate food, making it easier to swallow. Saliva also contains enzymes that begin to break down carbohydrates in the food.
- The jaw muscles contract and relax as you chew, moving your lower jaw up and down to grind food against the teeth.
Does It Matter What You Chew?
Yes, it does matter what you chew, impacting your overall health and well-being. Here are some factors to consider:
- Chewing nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins provides your body with important vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients essential for good health.
- Chewing crunchy foods such as apples, carrots, and celery helps clean teeth and stimulate the production of saliva, which can help protect teeth and gums from decay and infection.
- Chewing hard, crunchy foods exercises the jaw muscles to improve function.
- Chewing slowly and mindfully can help you feel fuller and more satisfied with your meals, preventing overeating and promoting healthy weight management.
Does Chewing Gum Have A Positive Effect on Your Oral Health?
Chewing gum can positively affect your oral health in some of the following ways:
- Increasing saliva production: Chewing gum stimulates the body to produce more saliva, which helps to neutralize acids produced by bacteria in the mouth. More saliva can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
- Removing food particles: Chewing gum can dislodge some of the debris that may be stuck between teeth or in hard-to-reach areas of the mouth.
- Freshening breath: Many sugar-free gums contain flavorings and sweeteners that help freshen breath and mask unpleasant odors.
- Improving jaw function: Chewing gum exercises the jaw muscles to improve function and overall health.
Is All Gum Good For Your Oral Health?
Although chewing gum has several benefits to your oral health, you will hear dentists in Bradford, ON, advocate for sugar-free gum severally. For one, it has been approved by dental organizations, such as the American Dental Association (ADA).
You should choose sugar-free gum that contains xylitol, a natural sweetener, which usually provides additional benefits to your health by reducing the bacteria in the mouth that cause cavities. Besides, some types of gum, especially those that contain sugar, can actually be harmful to your teeth and gums, including in the following ways:
- Sugar can cause tooth decay: Gum that contains sugar provides a food source for bacteria in the mouth, producing acids that erode tooth enamel and cause cavities.
- Artificial sweeteners can be harmful: Some types of sugar-free gum contain artificial sweeteners that can cause digestive problems for some people.
- Stickiness can damage dental work: Some types of gum are very sticky, adhering to dental work, such as fillings and braces. If this happens, it will cause damage or dislodge the dental work.
- Hardness can cause jaw pain: Chewing hard gum strains your jaw, leading to pain and discomfort, especially if you have initial jaw problems such as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.
Tips to Get the Most Out of Gum Chewing
At South Simcoe Dental Care, we will not discourage you from ever chewing gum. Instead, we provide our patients will guidelines to help them maximize the benefits of gum chewing while minimizing complications. The tips include:
- Keep your mouth clean – chewing gum is never a substitute for other oral hygiene practices like flossing or brushing your teeth.
- Opt for sugar-free gum.
- Get recommendations about the best kind of gum – usually one that is approved by dental organizations. Do not hesitate to ask a dentist in a dental office near you for recommendations.
- Chew for at least 20 minutes at a time. It is just enough time to stimulate saliva production and remove food particles and bacteria from the mouth.
- Chew gum after meals. It will freshen your breath, remove food particles and bacteria from the mouth, and aid digestion.
- Don’t chew gum excessively. Instead, do it in moderation.