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You brush twice a day and floss once a day. What else can you do to take care of your smile?

Chew gum!

Sugarless gum, that is. But how does this help your smile? To understand how chewing gum can help, we must understand some basic things about the mouth system.

First, cavities form by acid on your teeth. This acid can come from external sources, such as food and drink, or they can come from the bacteria that live in your mouth. The living bacteria form together on your teeth into a sticky film called plaque. They then feed on sugars present in your mouth from food particles. The bacteria converts this sugar into an acidic byproduct, which in turn eats away at your tooth enamel.

Your body has a natural defense against this process: saliva. Saliva fortifies tooth enamel and neutralizes acids. This is where chewing gum comes in.

After eating or drinking, the acids in the food and drink soften tooth enamel. As the act of brushing your teeth is inherently abrasive and can damage weakened enamel, it is far better to simply stimulate the salivary glands and allow the body’s natural defenses to take over. Sugarless gum activates saliva production, which neutralizes the acids and prepares the teeth to be brushed.

Chew gum for 20 minutes after eating. Make sure it is sugarless gum. Sugared gum also stimulates saliva, but the sugar feeds the bacteria you are trying to fight, negating any benefits of chewing the gum itself.

For more information, call Ballston Dental Arts in Arlington, Virginia, at 703-664-1969. Dr. Duke Kim and our team are happy to help!