Typically, you’d think that a dentist wouldn’t want your child chewing gum. After all, gum tends to be a chewy substance filled with sugar, and it has a bad reputation for being bad for your teeth.
However, it actually comes down to what type of gum you’re allowing your child to chew, and if you do it right, chewing gum can actually be a useful part of your child’s dental care.
Today, we’re going to go over the best gum for children’s teeth, how chewing gum can be helpful, what type of chewing gum you need to get, and how you can use it properly to both give your child a fun treat and boost their dental health.
Let’s get started!
Should Children Chew Gum?
Gum can be bad for your child’s teeth. Most of the stuff in the candy section is loaded with sugar and has particles in it that can be abrasive, and in general, those products are like eating candy for an extended period. This can cause cavities, wear off the enamel of the teeth, and stress the jaw causing TMJ disorders if done too frequently.
However, some gum products are actually good for your child’s teeth and oral health.
Gum can remove plaque and gunk between teeth, and it can be filled with certain ingredients that stimulate good oral health. However, we’ll talk more about the full benefits of chewing gum later.
What is the Best Chewing Gum for Teeth?
When you’re trying to buy your child chewing gum, there are specific traits you want to look for. First and foremost, write off all the big gum brands you can think of.
Here’s what you should actually look for.
The Fundamentals of Xylitol
First and foremost, the gum needs to be a Xylitol gum. Xylitol is a type of natural alternative sweetener. Gums that use this are typically sugar-free and sweetened purely with the Xylitol.
Xylitol offers a lot of benefits that are great for your child’s oral health, and you don’t even have to worry about cavities or other issues that come with sweet goodies.
Here are the benefits that Xylitol offers.
Benefit No. 1: Excellent Oral Bacteria Management
One of the most important benefits of Xylitol is that it helps manage your child’s oral bacteria. That sounds gross, but the human body actually relies on bacteria, and getting rid of all of it can have very negative impacts.
Xylitol helps remove and prevent the growth of bad bacteria while allowing good bacteria to thrive.
Benefit No. 2: Useful Overeating Prevention
Xylitol helps your child feel full when they’re supposed to. Oftentimes, children will overeat because they’re enjoying something and want more rather than actually needing as much as they’re eating.
Benefit No. 3: Direct Aid in Overall Sinus Health
Your child’s sinuses are attached to their mouth and throat. Since Xylitol helps manage bacteria, you’ll notice that your child suffers from fewer sinus infections, illnesses, and more.
Benefit No. 4: Multi-Layer Cavity Prevention
Preventive pediatric dentistry studies indicate that Xylitol helps rebuild your child’s teeth in a couple of ways. First, it prevents cavities from growing and actively helps repair them. However, it also encourages more saliva flow. Saliva naturally helps rebuild the enamel on your child’s teeth and remove harmful debris.
Xylitol won’t rebuild broken teeth or completely fill in cavities, but it can greatly help prevent cavities in children.
Hidden Tooth Hazards in Gums 101
Have you ever had the fun gum products that have little crystals or balls in them? Those things add texture, and they can be enjoyable, but they’re not optimal for your child’s teeth. They’re not good for your own teeth, to be honest.
Those little particulates might be fun, but they’re actually abrasives.
Your teeth have an outer layer substance known as enamel. That’s like the armor of the teeth. It protects against acid, hard or rough substances, and everything else that is hard on teeth. Without it, your teeth become extremely sensitive to a range of temperatures, and most things will cause you some degree of pain.
Those little abrasive particles slowly wear away the enamel on your child’s teeth. It’s a lot like sanding an old table. The small, hard particles grind away at the teeth as your child chews. However, in this case, enamel is worn off until the teeth are exposed, and a painful situation ensues. Even worse, some of these products market themselves as good for teeth due to “scrubbing action”.
If you see any particulates in a gum, just stay away from it.
Sugar Free – The Only Option
Xylitol gum typically doesn’t contain sugar, anyway. Xylitol will be the sole sweetener in such products. However, it’s still important to make sure the manufacturer doesn’t use sugar to make the product even sweeter.
We’re not saying that you have to completely remove sugar from your child’s diet. Kids love it, and we all love sweet treats occasionally. However, chewing gum is a bit different than candy or cupcakes.
Gum is designed to be chewed for an extensive period. If it contains sugar, that sugar isn’t just consumed. It’s smashed all over your child’s teeth and allowed to sit there until their teeth are brushed. That means that the sugar will have a lot more time to feed bacteria and corrode your child’s teeth than it would if they were simply eating a sweet treat.
Benefits of Having Your Child Chew Xylitol Chewing Gum
If you pick the right chewing gum product for your child, they’ll enjoy a number of benefits.
Here’s what to expect.
Benefit No. 1: Guilt-Free Sweet Treat
First and foremost, this type of chewing gum allows you to give your child a sweet treat they’ll love, but you don’t have to feel guilty about giving them something “unhealthy”.
As parents, we’re always looking to balance making our children happy with ensuring we’re doing the best job possible, and the right Xylitol gum allows us to do just that. The kid gets a sweet treat, and you get to know that it’s helping their teeth. But, there are far better alternatives than just chewing sugar-free gum. The internet is full of creative recipes for things like healthy treats for kids, healthy alternatives to popular sweets, etc… that will satisfy your child’s sweet tooth without causing dental problems.
Benefit No. 2: Keeping the Enamel Maintained
Enamel gets damaged throughout all of our lives. However, if you can maintain it, you can enjoy a life free of major dental issues. This is one of the major benefits of introducing Xylitol gum into your child’s life.
Since they start using it early, it becomes a habit, and they start off on the right track. It’s a lot better to start when they’re young with perfect teeth than it is to wait until they’re adults with cavities and other dental issues that they’re desperately trying to repair and maintain.
For the most part, creating good preventative habits in your child’s youth will give them the best chance of maintaining good oral health throughout their lives.
Benefit No. 3: Aid in Illness Prevention
As we described earlier, this gum, and the Xylitol in it, can help reduce illnesses. Since the Xylitol balances out oral bacteria, your child will have fewer problems with their throat, tonsils, sinuses, and other parts of the body that are commonly afflicted by illness and connected directly to the mouth.
Benefit No. 4: Helpful in Teeth Cleaning
All gum, even the products that cause more harm than good, helps clean your child’s teeth. Xylitol gum is no different.
The gum is sticky. That means that plaque will stick to it and pull away from the teeth, gunk that is stuck between teeth will get pulled out, and in general, the gum acts like a magnet to pull all the gross stuff out of your child’s mouth. When they’re done and spit the gum out, the bad stuff goes with it.
As we said, most gum has ingredients that are harmful enough to outweigh this trait, but if you switch to a Xylitol chewing gum for your child, the benefits end up being well worth any drawbacks.
How to Find Xylitol Chewing Gum
Unless you’ve looked for it before, you probably don’t know where to look for Xylitol gum. At first glance, it blends in with other products, and sometimes, it’s not labeled in a standout way.
You should look for Xylitol gum in one of two areas. First, you can often find some of the more generally marketed options with all the other chewing gum. You’ll just have to find one labeled as a Xylitol gum. A lot of them have Xylitol in their name.
So, it shouldn’t be hard to differentiate between them. If not, it will be listed in the ingredients. Just make sure there are no extra sugars, and Xylitol is the only sweetener.
Then, you might find it in the oral care section. Since Xylitol is often recommended as an oral health item, it’s sometimes included with miscellaneous oral care items.
The Price Tag of Xylitol Gum
Xylitol gum is somewhat more expensive than your run-of-the-mill chewing gum. Especially if it’s marketed as more than just a basic gum product. However, it’s not a noticeable difference, and it’s usually very comparable to the more expensive normal gum brands.
Are There Alternatives to Gum?
If you want your child to get most of these benefits, but they can’t chew gum due to being too young to spit it out, having a bad habit of swallowing gum, or a similar issue, you’re not out of luck.
While some benefits, such as helping to clean your teeth, require a gum product, you can also opt for sweetener powder, candies, cookies and other baked goods, toothpaste, dental wash, and even floss. So, even if your child doesn’t want to chew gum or can’t, you can still get most of the benefits Xylitol gum has to offer with an alternative product.
However, it is worth noting that many of those alternative Xylitol products are considerably more costly than their normal counterparts. For example, the sweetener powder that is used as a sugar replacer is fairly expensive in comparison to sugar in the same quantity.
How to Use Chewing Gum for Oral Care
Even if you get the best chewing gum possible for your kid’s teeth, there are still some things to consider. While it’s healthy and a good way to boost overall health without all of the negative impacts of normal chewing gum, using it improperly can have some drawbacks.
First, there’s the potential for a TMJ issue. This is when the joint that connects the jaw is overworked and gets sore. This isn’t a major concern in most cases, but your child shouldn’t chew Xylitol gum for too long or too often. About 15 minutes once or twice a day is more than enough to boost your child’s dental health while still allowing the jaw to get the rest it needs to prevent issues.
Then, there’s another unfortunate drawback. Some people can experience gas and diarrhea when they consume Xylitol. This isn’t extremely common, but if you notice your child is having such issues, it might be a good option to limit using the gum or simply opt not to use it at all. These aren’t harmful side effects, but they can be uncomfortable to deal with.
Finally, there’s a major issue with overconsuming Xylitol. If your child gets too much, their blood sugar can drop. Fortunately, this shouldn’t be an issue. The recommended amount per day is 50mg. It takes a lot more than that to cause blood sugar problems, and as long as you’re not letting your child chew it constantly or abusing alternative products such as sweeteners, there’s nothing to worry about.
Learn More with Dino Kids Dental
There’s a lot more that goes into your child’s dental health besides consuming the best chewing gum.
Our pediatric dentistry specialists can answer all your questions about your child’s oral health and provide the best treatment possible, from normal checkups to more serious dental emergencies.