Chewing gum: as good at cleaning teeth as toothbrush or floss?

The billion dollar gum industry will be pleased with the findings of a new study led by researchers from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

The study, published in the PLOS ONE journal, found that chewing gum can trap and remove bacteria from the mouth.

The researchers calculated that a single piece of gum can trap up to 100 million bacteria: around 10 per cent of the bacteria in your mouth, making it as effective as flossing.

Volunteers were asked to chew gum for varying amounts of time for up to ten minutes. Those who enjoy chewing their gum for prolonged periods will be disappointed to hear that the optimal chew time for trapping bacteria was less than a minute.

The paper stated: “Despite an increasing diversity in species developing over time in chewed gums, there is a gradual decrease in the number of bacteria trapped in chewed gum over time.”

More types of bacteria were found in gum the longer it was chewed, but less of it. This suggests that the bacteria are released back into the mouth.

However, the researchers also noted that chewing gum doesn’t necessary remove bacteria from the sites they didn’t examine, such as the tongue.

So whilst we shouldn’t give up on our toothbrushes and floss just yet, it’s good to know that a quick chew of gum can help contribute to the maintenance of oral health.

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