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King’s College London releases ‘most robust systematic review conducted to date’ on oral health benefits of sugar-free gum

Researchers find evidence to support use of sugar-free gum in caries prevention

November 22, 2019

By Mary Beth Versaci

London –– Dental faculty at King's College London have found chewing sugar-free gum could help reduce the incidence of caries in what the college says is the most comprehensive systematic review on the topic to date.

The dental, oral and craniofacial faculty, with support from the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Program, screened over 360 studies and ultimately included 12 of them in their analysis.

Most of the studies focused on children and were of moderate quality, so additional research is needed to further assess the effect in adults and "explore the acceptability and feasibility of the use of [sugar-free gum] as a public health intervention," according to the King's College London review, which was published in November by JDR Clinical & Translational Research.

The review's findings regarding the benefits of sugar-free gum support what the American Dental Association advises. On its Oral Health Topics page, the ADA states chewing sugar-free gum after eating increases salivary flow, which can help neutralize and wash away the acids that are produced when food is broken down by plaque bacteria.

Geisinger
Dr. Geisinger
"Stimulation of saliva, which has a high buffering capacity, has been shown to be increased ten to twelvefold by the simple act of chewing sugar-free gum," said Dr. Maria Geisinger, chair of the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs. "This increased salivary flow, as well as the mechanical clearance of carbohydrate food particles, which can serve as a food source for dental caries-causing bacteria, results in reduction in dental caries."

Sugar-free gums can earn the ADA Seal of Acceptance by demonstrating they meet safety and efficacy requirements, as evaluated by the Council on Scientific Affairs. These products help prevent caries when chewed for 20 minutes after eating.

"The use of sugar-free gum is not a substitute for regular toothbrushing and interdental cleaning or healthy eating habits overall for caries prevention," Dr. Geisinger said. "It is important to choose a sugar-free gum without acidic additives that can contribute to enamel erosion, so looking for the ADA Seal can help when choosing a gum to reduce caries risk."

An estimated 2.4 billion people worldwide have caries in their permanent teeth and 486 million children have caries in their primary teeth, according to the World Health Organization's Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. Oral diseases are the most common noncommunicable diseases in the world, with caries in permanent teeth the most prevalent condition assessed.

"While we have made great strides in some areas of oral care, dental caries continues to have a huge economic, social and societal impact on people, particularly in developing countries," said Dr. Avijit Banerjee, lead investigator of the study and professor of cariology and operative dentistry at King's College London. "The results should serve as an important reminder to dental professionals and policy makers of the important role sugar-free gum can play in reducing the economic, societal and health burden of poor oral health."

To learn more about the benefits of chewing sugar-free gum, visit the ADA's Oral Health Topics page on chewing gum, and to find sugar-free gums with the ADA Seal, go to the Seal Product Search page for sugar-free chewing gum.