Dentists advise their patients to floss their teeth after brushing but findings of a new study suggest that chewing gum may just be as good as flossing when it comes to removing bacteria from the mouth.

Researchers of a new study have found that chewing gum for 10 minutes can gather and remove up to 100 million bacteria from the mouth.

For the new study published in the journal PLOS ONE on Jan. 20, Stefan Wessel, from the University of Groningen and University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands, and colleagues recruited five students to chew two different types of spearmint gum for varying periods of time ranging. The researchers then analyzed the gums that were spitted into sterile water.

The researchers found that each of the chewed up gum has about 100 million bacteria and the number increases as the length of time it was chewed increased. Wessel and colleagues likewise detected more types of bacteria albeit in smaller quantities in gums that were chewed longer, which suggest that bacteria is released back into the mouth when chewing is prolonged.

Chewing a gum may provide some benefits but the researchers have found that chewing the same gum longer than 10 minutes undo these benefits because the bacteria that stuck into the gum are released back into the mouth.

"The number of species trapped in chewed gum increased with chewing time," the researchers wrote. "Trapped bacteria were clearly visualized in chewed gum using scanning-electron-microscopy. Summarizing, using novel methods to quantify and qualify oral bacteria trapped in chewed gum, the hypothesis is confirmed that chewing of gum can trap and remove bacteria from the oral cavity."

Another experiment involving three participants who were asked to use 5 cm of floss wire revealed that the mechanical action of floss wires removes an amount of bacteria comparable to that of chewing a gum.

Earlier research has likewise shown that cleaning the teeth with a new and clean toothbrush that does not have any toothpaste in it can eliminate about 100 million colony-forming units (CFUs) per brush suggesting that chewing gum achieves the similar effects of brushing the teeth.

The researchers, however, pointed out that chewing gums do not necessarily eliminate bacteria from all parts of the mouth.

This is not the first time that gums have been associated with health and oral benefits. Other than fighting bad breath, a 2008 study also found that chewing gum can relieve anxiety, boost alertness and reduce stress in individuals who multitask.

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