Dr. Robert L. Simon
Sweet and Easy
It might seem unusual for a dentist to recommend chewing gum, but if you are going to chew gum, I recommend xylitol gum. Studies have shown that xylitol may prevent cavities by inhibiting the growth of the bacteria (Streptococcus mutans) that cause decay. Xylitol can also be found in toothpastes and candies.
A double-blind placebo-controlled study of 1,677 children showed that xylitol-enriched toothpaste users developed significantly fewer cavities than those who used the fluoride-only toothpaste over a three-year period. While, a double-blinded study showed that the effect of xylitol on developing fewer cavities was in a dose-dependent fashion; that is, the more xylitol that is used, the less dental decay.
I have not recommended chewing gum because it encourages excessive function that can lead to muscle tension headaches, facial and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain. However, with the admonition to chew the gum for only five minutes after a meal, the benefits of reduced tooth decay seem to be worth the effort. If you are prone to headaches remember to spit out the gum.