Chewing gum in various forms has been around since ancient times. The Greeks chewed sap from the mastic tree, called mastiche. On the other side of the world, the ancient Mayans favored the sap of the sapodilla tree (called tsiclte). Native Americans from New England chewed spruce sap—a habit they passed on to European settlers.
Patients and parents often ask about which gum to chew and if it’s safe to chew gum with a palate expander or braces. Patients should not chew gum while they have their expander, but patients with traditional braces can chew gum if it is on the ADA (American Dental Association) approved list of sugar-free gums. These gums are sweetened by non-cavity causing sweeteners such as aspartame, sorbitol or mannitol.
The main benefit of chewing sugar-free gum is increased salivary flow, which helps clear food and acid away from your teeth and therefore lowers the risk of dental decay. The sugar-free gums that currently have the ADA seal of acceptance include 5, Dentyne Ice, Eclipse, Extra, Ice Breakers, Orbit, Stride, and Trident.
Chewing gum is an adjunct to brushing and flossing, but not a substitute for either. The ADA, Dr. Foote and Dr. Piskai recommend brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and cleaning plaque from between your teeth once a day with dental floss or other interproximal dental cleaners.