Chewing Gum May Remove as Much Bacteria as Brushing

Chewing gum has long been linked to a number of positive oral health benefits, including fighting cavities to improving saliva flow. Now a new study has discovered that chewing gum can actually remove harmful oral bacteria from the mouth.

In fact, researchers suggest that chewing gum may remove as much bacteria from the mouth as flossing or brushing without toothpaste, according to the authors of a recent study published in the journal PLOS One and funded by Wrigley. Lean more about gum and bacteria in our post below, from your choice for family dentist in Oregon City, Dr. Brett Johnson

Chewing Towards a Brighter Smile

Researchers from the University Medical Center Groningen first initiated this study to determine the number of bacteria that become trapped in a piece of sugar-free gum as a result of chewing. Researchers believe this marks the first time that a study has attempted to estimate the number of bacteria chewing gum helps to remove from the mouth.

As part of the study, researchers recruited several healthy individuals from the university of participate and asked them to chew two different types of commonly available sugar-free gum for varying amounts of time for up to 10 minutes.

In the study, researchers determined that by targeting different areas on the mouth, sugar-free chewing gum was able to successfully remove comparable amounts of bacteria to flossing and brushing without toothpaste. However, despite these findings, researchers are not advocating for people to stop brushing or flossing in favor of chewing gum.

The researchers utilized two unique ways to successfully qualify and quantify the amount of oral bacteria trapped in the chewed gum. The numbers were determined in either terms of colony-forming units (CFUs) following agar plating and sonication or the total number of bacteria, obtained after dissolving the gum and conducting a quantitative analysis.

With the colony-forming method of testing, a set number of oral bacteria were hand massaged into commercially available brands of gum, which were then molded to standard dimensions, sonicated, and plated to determine the number of colonies incorporated. In the second method, a set number of bacteria were hand massaged into the gum, which was then dissolved in a chemical mixture. The mixture was then analyzed, which enabled researchers to compare the total amount of bacteria found.

Researchers also used two different types of testing methods on the gum chewed by the study volunteers and compared those numbers to the hand massaged gum. They also demonstrated bacterial presence in the chewed gum using electron microscopy scanning.

Researchers then discovered that nearly 108 CFUs of bacteria were detected in each piece of gum, depending on the gum and method used. While this may not seem like a particularly high number, it does indicate that when an individual chews gum on a daily basis, it contributes over the long-term in reducing the amount of oral bacteria found in the mouth.

The highest amount of bacteria was trapped during the first 10 minutes of chewing. Researchers explained that gum loses its ability to trap bacteria after extend use because the composition of the gum changes the longer it receives exposure to saliva.

Based on these findings, researchers determined that chewing one piece of gum removes approximately 10 percent of the oral bacteria found in the mouth. Comparatively, brushing without toothpaste removes slightly less bacteria when compared to chewing gum, while flossing removes a roughly equal amount.

Still Need to Brush

While the results of these findings were encouraging, researchers were clear in stating that brushing and flossing daily still remain as the two best habits for decreasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. However, by regularly chewing sugar-free gum after meals, researches believe the chewing gum could further decrease an individual’s risk of oral disease when combined with brushing, flossing and scheduling regular dental checkups.