Chewing gum can save a sum

June 19th, 2017

A recent study published in the American Journal of Dentistry has found that chewing just one additional piece of sugar-free gum each day could save £3.3 billion worldwide on dental expenditures.

This caught the attention of the World Health Organisation, who found it ‘a significant finding’ given tooth decay and oral diseases rank fourth among the most expensive global health conditions.

The research looked at dental care costs from tooth decay in 25 countries, including the UK. In fact, it follows hot on the heels of a piece of research by Plymouth University in 2016 which revealed the NHS could save up to £8.2 million per annum if 12 year olds increased their chewing of sugar-free gum.

How does chewing gum lead to such huge savings, and how can you save yourself from denture expenditure?

The solution is surprisingly simple: Chewing sugar-free gum decreases the chances of suffering tooth decay by producing more saliva – your mouth’s natural defence against tooth decay. Why that is the case is a little more complicated:

While tooth decay is mostly preventable, it still affects between 60-90% of schoolchildren and nearly all adults, according to the Oral Health Foundation. Tooth decay comes from the acid that attacks your teeth, especially after eating, as plaque bacteria (the yucky film that forms on teeth) and the sugars in your food and drink create this acid.

Acid dissolves the protective enamel and dentine in our teeth, which over time results in cavities (holes). As we all know, cavities are bad news. Once it reaches that stage only a filling from the dentist can repair the damage done. Left untreated they can lead to even more serious health problems.

The trick is to have sugar-free chewing gum handy to chew between meals when it may not be possible to brush with a toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. By helping us make more saliva, chewing sugar-free gum has been shown to quickly lower the amount of acid in the mouth and wash away remaining food particles, reducing the danger of acid attack and tooth decay.

That’s not all – dry mouth and bad breath are often caused by a reduced saliva flow so chewing sugar-free gum can keep bad breath at bay too.

The study, published on 2nd April, 2017, provides an important reminder of the global impacts of tooth decay. Let’s leave the final word to Dr Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, commenting on the new research: “The numbers for the UK alone were significant and showed us that there is real potential to create substantial savings which would relieve the growing pressure on our healthcare system. Seeing these results at a global level is hugely exciting, and we hope the research will encourage dental professionals to communicate the potential role that sugar-free gum can play in preventing dental decay as part of a good oral care regime.”

For more information visit the Oral Health Foundation.

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