While you may not save $4.1 billion yourself, you might save a significant amount of money by using sugar-free gum to help prevent tooth decay.
Today, nearly all adults experience tooth decay, as do most children. The cost of treatment adds up, and it is estimated that 60% of dental healthcare costs are associated with tooth decay.
Sugar-free gum may help.
When you chew gum, it increases saliva flow in your mouth. In turn, this saliva is able to remove harmful acids from the mouth, thereby protecting enamel from cavities.
This by itself isn’t new news. The oral healthcare benefits of chewing sugar-free gum have been recognized by many regulatory bodies, national governments, and national dental associations. However, a study by the Institute of Empirical Health Economics (IEHE) is the first to quantify the large scale economic impact.
IEHE calculates that if consumers of sugar-free gum chewed just one more piece of gum per day, $4.1 billion could be saved from dental visits relating to tooth decay. This amounts to $2.09 billion in the United States alone. Notably, this does not include benefits for those who are not currently using sugar-free gum.
The study’s lead author suggests that chewing sugar-free gum as a preventive measure for tooth decay has the potential to deliver significant dental care cost savings worldwide.
A study by the same organization in 2018 later confirmed that, in Germany, 5,011.02€ per capita could be saved in a lifetime and 80.82€ per year if there was more elevated consumption of sugar-free gum.
Are there risks in chewing gum, even if it’s sugar-free?
"There is such a thing as ‘too much of a good thing,’" says Past President of the American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID),. David G Hochberg, DDS, DABOI, FAAID. "In excess, gum chewing, even if it doesn’t contain cavity-causing sugars, can be problematic to certain individuals."
The reason being that, after a meal is finished and our stomach has processed the food, it rests. If gum chewing takes place for extended time periods, the stomach doesn’t have the opportunity to take a break—it’s still working hard to process the excess salvia produced during gum chewing. This can lead to stomach issues. And, there are those who are allergic or sensitive to artificial sweeteners. They are not all the same and care must be taken in selecting one that agrees with your digestive system.
And, let’s not forget the jaw joint. Many have experienced times when their TMJ (temporomandibular joint) is painful, called TMD (temporomandibular joint dysfunction). Gum chewing can cause, or exacerbate the problem.
"So, while chewing sugar-free gum for short time periods can decrease the risk dental cavities, like everything, it should not be in excess," says Dr. Hochberg.
If you have previously lost teeth, be sure to see an AAID-credentialed dental implant expert about replacing those lost teeth. Doing so will give you a healthier, more beautiful smile.
David G. Hochberg is the Past President of the AAID. He completed advanced training in both the surgical and restorative phases of implant dentistry in 1986, the same year he established Colony Square Dental Associates in Atlanta. Dr. Hochberg has been actively involved with the educational process in the dental implant field, serving on the Board of Examiners for ABOI and AAID. He lectures locally and nationally about implant dentistry, and served as Editor of the AAID News for 12 years.
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