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Chewing Sugar-Free Gum After Eating, Drinking Can Help NHS Save On Dental Treatment

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A new study reveals another reason to divulge in gums. Researchers from Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry revealed that chewing three sugarless gums a day could save up to 364,000 dental check-ups.

In the study published in the British Dental Journal, the authors estimate that the National Health Service (NHS) can save around £8.2 million (more than $11 million) a year if all 12-year-olds across the United Kingdom chew sugarless gums after eating or drinking.

Though tooth decay is preventable, it is one of the most common reasons for dental visits among children. People in the UK experience high levels of tooth decay that can impact both self-esteem and health. About 35 percent of 12-year-old children reported feeling embarrassed to smile because of their teeth condition.

In the past, it is widely known that chewing gum can actually help prevent tooth decay. The physical process of chewing increases the flow of saliva in the mouth. This neutralizes all the acids produced from breaking down food particles. In the long run, these acids can severely damage the tooth enamel, leading to dental caries or tooth decay.

According to the American Dental Association, chewing gum for at least 20 minutes after eating can help prevent tooth decay. The association, however, warns to use only sugarless gums as those with sugar can contribute further to tooth decay.

"The findings of this study are hugely exciting as they reveal a new and easy way of helping people improve their oral health," Professor Liz Kay of Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, said

"Crucially, whilst these figures are significant, they refer only to cost reductions for treating 12 year olds in the UK; if this model was to be applied to the whole population then there is a real potential to create substantial NHS savings," she added.

The study, however, does not imply to replace brushing and flossing with gum. Brushing teeth for two minutes twice a day is still the recommended way to keep the teeth clean and healthy. For children, letting them chew sugar-free gums during the day can be effective in preventing tooth decay. 

Photo: Marcel Grieder | Flickr 

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