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Studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum for twenty minutes following meals has been correlated with preventing tooth decay.

The reasoning behind this theory is that chewing gum produces saliva, which washes away food and bacteria, preventing that food and bacteria from forming plaque on your teeth and ruining the enamel.

There is a catch, however. The gum must be sugarless. Chewing sugar-filled gum will just lead to more sugar and plaque buildup on the teeth, causing a higher likelihood for more cavities.

There are certain brands of gum that have the American Dental Association (ADA) seal on them. ADA-Sealed brands are sugar free and have been approved by the ADA.

Don’t let chewing sugarless gum replace brushing your teeth and flossing. Doing this may result in more plaque buildup, gingivitis and potentially tooth decay and tooth loss. Dentists recommend that patients brush their teeth at least twice per day and floss at least once per day to prevent plaque buildup, but this brushing and flossing should not be replaced by chewing gum.

Chewing gum also helps prevent heartburn. Just as chewing gum prevents cavities by producing saliva while chewing, it does the same for heartburn. The saliva produced makes you swallow more often, pushing acids out.

Next time you want something to chew on, grab a pack of sugar-free gum at the grocery store. Your smile and your tooth enamel will thank you.