Chewing gum, made from tree resin and sap, has served as a diversion for men and women since prehistoric times. From the ancient Greeks to the Aztecs, gum has been used to clean teeth and freshen breath for centuries.
After the invention of bubble gum in the early 1900s, Dubble Bubble popularized the classic pink gum as a candy favorite among bubble-popping Americans.
Today, synthetics have replaced the natural materials used to make gum to improve the taste and texture of the thousands of varieties and flavors available on the market.
Is chewing gum bad for your teeth?
Myths about gum can finally be debunked. Chewing gum is not necessarily bad for teeth. Surprisingly, it can be beneficial for dental heath.
It all depends on what you are chewing. Sugar is the key component that separates the good effects from the bad.
Dr. Kelly Miller of Lawrence Dental Solutions says chewing gum with sugar can be harmful to teeth. “Its the sugar in your diet that causes cavities,” she says.
Bacteria grows much faster when it is exposed to sugar. Miller says, “It basically doubles the amount of bacteria in your mouth.”
For gum lovers, sugar-free gum can help ease concerns about cavity development. Chewing it can actually have positive effects on dental health.
“Saliva acts as a buffer for acid,” Miller says. Because chewing gum stimulates saliva flow in the mouth, sugar-free gum can help prevent tooth decay.
“Sugar-free gums with Xylitol, like Trident and Orbit, have anti-carcinogenic effects,” Miller says. This organic sugar substitute, Xylitol, reduces the amount of bacteria, plaque accumulation and prevents tooth decay if chewed frequently.
Does whitening gum work?
Dr. Miller says the effects of whitening gums have never been scientifically proven or disproved.
They don’t work like bleaching or professional whitening.
“They have an abrasive component, similar to toothpaste, that removes staining on the surface of the teeth,” she says.
If you’re looking for a noticeable change in the color of your teeth, whitening strips or bleaching trays are better alternatives for more dramatic results.
When is it appropriate to chew gum?
“Chewing gum ... if it is done quietly and unobtrusively, is not unattractive,” wrote Emily Post, leading mistress of proper etiquette. “But when one does it with grimaces, open mouth, smacks, crackles, and pops, and worst of all with bubbles, it is in the worst of taste.”
Although chewing gum may be entertaining and beneficial in some respects, it has never been considered the most mannerly of habits. Jolene Savage, owner of Social Graces School of Etiquette in Topeka, says chewing gum in public is considered uncouth.
“I am kind of old school,” she says. “I always say not to chew gum.”
Chewing gum can be annoying and distracting to others.
“Etiquette is not just about yourself, it’s about making other people feel comfortable,” Savage says. “If someone is chewing gum and they forget about it and start smacking, it can be really annoying.”
If you must chew gum, Savage suggests thinking about appropriateness considering where you are and who you’re with. “Think time and place,” she says. “If you’re at work, it would be tacky to sit in front of a client and smack on a piece of gum.”
When you’re finished chewing, be considerate about disposal. Don’t throw a wad of gum on the ground for someone to step in. Hold on to the wrapper or a napkin in your pocket so you can dispose of the gum properly.
Tips for gum removal
Even for gum lovers, there are some places where gum simply shouldn’t be. If this sticky substance has gotten stuck in some unwanted place, The International Chewing Gum Association suggests some helpful tips for gum removal.
Hair: a natural citrus solvent works the best to remove gum from hair. Household items like mineral oil, cooking oil and peanut butter will also work.
Clothing: freezing gum helps remove it from fabric. Seal the dry garment into a plastic bag and put it into the freezer. After it is frozen, remove the garment and immediately scrape the gum off with a dull knife.
Carpet: scrape any excess gum off the carpet with a dull knife then rub the area with ice until the remaining gum rolls off into a ball.
Hard surfaces: if scraping doesn’t do the trick, warm water under pressure will remove gum from surfaces like wood, concrete and tile.