Sugar Free Chewing Gum - A Debate

Recently there have been several stories in the media about the benefits of chewing sugar free chewing gum to prevent dental decay/caries. The recent stories have highlighted the cost of dental decay to the NHS & how if 12 year olds' chewed after eating or drinking it could possibly save the NHS over £8million.

There is no doubting this new research carried out at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry is correct, but you would have to ask, at what cost to the local environment? This being due to the likelihood of most of this landing on our floors & pavements, & not litter bins. Secondly you could also question whether some of the other ingredients in sugar free gums are really things we want our kids being encouraged to consume.

Let's take these issues one by one;

1 - Benefits of decay prevention

Giving children chewing gum could save the NHS £8m: Three sugar-free pieces a day would ‘slash tooth decay’
— Katie Pickles, Daily Mail online, 12 Feb 2016

Independent clinical research has shown that chewing sugar free gum for 20 minutes after eating or drinking helps neutralise the plaque acid attacks that can cause tooth decay and contributes to removing food remains. The increased flow of saliva caused by chewing gum also promotes the remineralisation of tooth enamel, thus reducing one risk factor for developing tooth decay.

This new study, published in the British Dental Journal, found that if 12-year-olds in the UK were to chew one additional piece of sugar-free gum per day, the NHS would save up to £2.8 million on dental treatments every year, rising to £3.3m if two pieces were chewed per day and £8.2m for three pieces. Daily Mail Story link

However it's worth noting that The Wrigley Co. Ltd helped support this research. "The oral healthcare benefits of chewing sugarfree gum, such as Wrigley’s Extra, are well proven". 

2 - Costs of Chewing Gum Littering

Food manufacturers ‘should fund chewing gum clean-up costs’
—, Mon 22nd Feb 2014

Media reports in November 2014 based on comments by the Local Government Association (LGA) that for every 3 pence on average a piece of gum costs, it costs local councils over £1.50 per piece to clean it off our streets & pavements.

The LGA estimated the annual cost of removing pieces trodden into pavements across England has reached £56 million, with around six tons dropped in the West End of London alone each year.

What's the problem you ask? Well basically Gum is not bio-degradable, or virtually all the stuff that's sold here isn't. 

"Food manufacturers should help to shoulder the costs of removing “ugly and unsightly” chewing gum from Britain’s streets, Local Government Association says, as minister calls for biodegradable products"

3 - Questionable ingredients

Most sugarless gum contains sugar-alcohols & artificial sweeteners like Aspartame, Saccharin, Sorbitol, Xylitol, & isomalt, etc, most of which cause side effects on the gut, & several having been suggested to have adverse or not so healthy side effects. We'll not go int these in depth here, but Google them yourself for further insights.

So do we recommend it?

In a word, Yes, BUT only after the basics of tooth brushing/flossing & dietry acid/sugar consumption education are understood.

Do we want all our 12 year old's chewing it 3x a day in the UK?

On balance what would you say?

For us it's a resounding NO