A landmark systematic review has found that chewing sugarfree gum could significantly reduce the incidence of dental caries, comparing it favourably to other preventive interventions such as oral health education and supervised tooth brushing alone.
Conducted by world-leading researchers at King’s College London’s Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences, with support from the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme, the review is the most robust to date, examining over 360 studies from the last 50 years.
Published in the Journal of Dental Research: Clinical & Translational Research, the research examines the levels of dental caries in both adults and children who chew sugarfree gum, compared to those who do not or who use alternatives such as lozenges, candies and rinses.
The study found that people who regularly chewed sugarfree gum developed 28% less dental caries than those who did not. This compared favourably to other oral health measures such as fluoride toothpaste and fluoride supplements, which reported 24% less dental caries.
Despite progress being made in recent years, dental caries remains a serious public health concern in the UK. Public Health England estimates that £50.5 million was spent on tooth extractions for those under the age of 19 between 2015 and 2016, with the majority relating to tooth decay.[i] Left untreated, dental caries can severely impact peoples’ quality of life by causing difficulty eating and drinking, interrupted sleeping, toothache, irritability and may cause them to avoid smiling because of the appearance of their teeth.[ii]
The review’s findings support the growing body of clinical evidence which shows the important role chewing sugar-free gum can have in improving both oral and overall health. This is particularly important as modern eating habits change. Data presented in the Eat, Drink Think report conducted by Kantar TNS shows that 83% of respondents consume at least one snack between meals while 48% consume two snacks or more per day.[iii] This shift to a ‘grazing’ culture means current oral health routines must adapt to protect teeth when they are most prone to plaque acid attack and when brushing is not possible.
Professor Avijit Banerjee, Professor of Cariology and Operative Dentistry at King’s College London and study lead commented:
“Both the stimulation of saliva which can act as a natural barrier to protect teeth, and the mechanical plaque control that results from the act of chewing, can contribute to the prevention of dental caries. Sugarfree gum can also act as a carrier for antibacterial ingredients including xylitol and sorbitol. No recent conclusive evidence existed prior to this review that showed the relationship between slowing the development of caries and chewing sugarfree gum.”
Dr Mike Dodds, lead oral health scientist at the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme, said:
“This new King’s College London study reinforces the important role sugarfree gum can play in improving oral health for people around the world. As our lifestyles and eating behaviours have evolved over time it is important that we look beyond brushing alone to find additional ways to protect our teeth and mouth as part of a regularly exercised oral care routine.
“Now is not the time to be complacent. Research is continuing to show us the connections between oral and general health and wellbeing. This study is a timely reminder of the role sugar-free gum can play in helping improve dental health in both developed and developing countries.”
This independent research was supported by a grant from the Wrigley Oral Healthcare programme. To read the full study please visit the King’s College London website or find the citation at PubMed. For more information on the study and on the benefits of chewing sugarfree gum, please contact: WOHP@lexcomm.co.uk
[ii] BaniHani A et al - The impact of dental caries and its treatment by conventional or biological approaches on the oral health-related quality of life of children and carers (2017). Available online from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29288546