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Should My Child Chew Gum?

While chewing gum can never replace a good toothbrushing and flossing routine, it may help in reducing your child’s risk of getting cavities.

The most important factor to keep in mind is the type of gum your child is chewing. If your child is chewing sugar-containing gum, this can increase their risk of cavities. Think: balls of gum with bright, colorful sugar coating or the pink chunks of gum that come in a giant tub!

But there is good news! There is actually a chewing gum that can help keep your child's teeth healthy. Have you ever heard of xylitol? Although the spelling looks like it would be hard to pronounce, it’s actually pretty easy to say: zahy-li-tol.

What is xylitol? It is a sugar alcohol that is commonly used as a sugar substitute. It’s a naturally occurring substance found in many fruits, vegetables, and even in the human body. It has a granular texture that is similar to sugar.

If your child chews a xylitol-containing gum, it can actually help reduce the risk of cavities.

Here are a few ways in which it can help your child’s mouth cavity-free:

1) Studies show that xylitol can reduce the number of cavity-causing bacteria in your child’s mouth.

2) Unlike regular sugar (sucrose), xylitol is not able to be broken down and therefore doesn't create the acid that causes cavities.

3) Xylitol increases the pH level in the mouth and creates a less than ideal environment for cavities to develop.

4) Chewing gum can also help remove food debris from the grooves in the teeth. If your child just had a handful of crackers/chips/cereal and can’t brush their teeth, chewing xylitol-containing gum would be a good alternative to make sure the food doesn't stick to the teeth.

With a quick Google search, you should able to find many choices of xylitol-containing chewing gum. Look for a product that has xylitol as the first ingredient and that also has close to 1 gram of xylitol per serving.

Disclaimer: If your child has chewing or jaw pain, please consult with your child’s dentist before chewing gum. Also, be sure to keep xylitol away from dogs—it is very toxic to them!

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Sarah Lawrence,
Dental Hygienist, Myofunctional Therapist & Writer
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