Santa Clarita, CA – After you have your braces put on, one of the first things your orthodontist probably tells you is to avoid eating anything too sticky or chewy so you don’t damage your braces. Chewing gum is probably one of the first things that comes to mind to be sure to avoid. But new research suggests that chewing certain types of gum can actually be beneficial to those wearing braces.
The main reason we tell patients to avoid sticky and chewy foods is to avoid damaging their braces. These types of foods can pull at the brackets and wires. Today’s braces, however, are much stronger and more durable, so chewing certain types of gum most likely won’t cause any damage.
The American Dental Association’s recent studies have shown that when you can’t brush your teeth right after a meal, chewing gum may help ward off tooth decay. There are a few reasons for this, the first of which is that chewing gum increases saliva production. That increase in saliva then helps get rid of the acids that are produced by bacteria that lead to tooth decay and strengthen enamel.
But that doesn’t mean you can chew any kind of gum – it is important that you stick to sugar-free gum. The artificial sweeteners used in gum, most often xylitol, can actually help prevent cavities because they reduce the formation of decay causing bacteria.
This is a huge plus for orthodontic patients. The brackets and wires of your braces create a lot of nooks and crannies where debris can get stuck, and if you can’t brush after a meal, they can linger and mingle with the bacteria that is naturally found in your mouth. This can create what is referred to as an “acid-attack” where the bacteria produces acid that can attack the enamel of your teeth. Regular brushing and flossing can get rid of this debris but chewing gum can be a good substitute until you can get to your toothbrush.
However, if you chew gum that contains sugar, you will have the opposite effect on your teeth. Sugar stimulates the bacteria that naturally lives in your mouth, so even though you may be producing more saliva, any benefits you might reap from it are negated. Additionally, sugary gum is stickier and can damage your appliances, even getting stuck on brackets and wires.
Stick to sugar free gum options, and if you have any questions always ask your orthodontist!
Dr. Reza Salmassian is a Board-Certified Orthodontist. For any questions regarding this article or to schedule your complimentary orthodontic evaluation, please contact Dr. Salmassian’s office at 661-222-7444 or visit us at www.salmassianortho.com.