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Children's Dental Health: Should You Allow Your Child to Chew Gum?

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As a parent, you may well spend more time worrying about your child's teeth than your child does. While you may be happy to hand over a few lollies, a bar of chocolate or a fizzy drink as a treat, you may feel like you spend a lot of your time encouraging your child not to eat and drink things that may damage their teeth.

If your child craves sweet treats, you may want to consider allowing them to chew gum. This may satisfy their urge to eat sweets and, in some cases, may actually help keep their teeth in good condition. Why is chewing gum good for teeth, and what kinds of gums should you allow and avoid?

The Effects of Chewing Gum on Oral Health

When you chew on a piece of gum you create more saliva in your mouth. The mouth uses saliva as a natural defence and protection. For example, saliva helps keep the mouth clean by washing out bacteria and food particles that may damage your teeth and gums; it also helps strengthen tooth enamel.

According to ABC Australia, chewing gum regularly may also have beneficial longer-term effects on your saliva production. Chewing is considered to help your saliva glands work more effectively over time, even when you aren't chewing on a piece of gum.

Learn the Difference Between Bad Gums and Good Gums

While chewing gum is good in principle, its positive effects may be reduced significantly if you allow your child to chew the wrong kind of gum. For example, you should not encourage your child to regularly chew on sugar-laden gums such as bubble gums.

According to Colgate, regular chewing gums that contain sugar may cause more damage to your child's teeth, negating the positive effects of chewing. As you chew on this kind of gum, you basically chew on sugar that doesn't dissolve but is pushed repeatedly onto the teeth. This may lead to problems such as tooth decay.

The best kinds of chewing gums for teeth are products that are sugar free. If your child chews on sugar-free gum, you take away the sugar downsides that may damage their teeth, just leaving them with the positives they get from chewing.

To add an extra boost to gum, look for sugar-free gums that contain xylitol. This natural sweetener can actively prevent problems such as tooth decay and gum disease by reducing plaque and bacteria build-up in the mouth. If your child is not great at brushing their teeth or doesn't have the greatest of diets, allowing xylitol gum may help boost oral health.

Warning: While chewing xylitol gum may be beneficial to your teeth, it may have some side effects if you chew a lot of it. For example, eating more than 45g of xylitol gum a day may give your child problems such as diarrhoea.

For more information on ways to improve your child's dental health, talk to your dentist.