The prevalence of tooth decay in young people is worrying for us all. In making the wider public aware that over 25,000 children a year are admitted to hospital to treat tooth decay, Jamie Oliver’s current sugar tax campaign is successfully conveying the gravity of the situation. So, could sugar-free gum be the answer?
At our specialist dental practice in London’s Harley Street we were saddened – although not greatly surprised – to learn the following statistic from the 2013 Child Dental Health Survey (for England, Wales and Northern Ireland): 35% of 12-year-olds reported the condition of their teeth made them embarrassed to smile or laugh. Clearly the fight against tooth decay needs to start young…
What can sugar-free gum do?
Each expert at our central London specialist dental practice will tell you that the most important part of any dental care regime is meticulous brushing twice a day. They will also say that chewing sugar-free gum after eating and drinking can help to prevent tooth decay.
Chewing increases saliva production which is essential to washing away food particles and neutralising plaque acids which are harmful to the teeth. Furthermore, saliva promotes the remineralisation of tooth enamel.
Making sugar-free gum part of one’s daily oral hygiene routine has the backing of the World Dental Federation, the British Dental Health Foundation – and the European Commission too.
Can chewing sugar-free gum help the NHS?
With more than a million UK patients using the NHS dental services each week, dental disease costs the NHS £3.4bn a year.
In new health economic research published in the British Dental Journal, researchers found that if all 12-year-olds chewed just one additional piece of sugar-free gum per day, the NHS could save up to £2.8m. The savings increased with each extra piece of gum – rising to £8.2m for three pieces. That’s a figure certainly worth chewing over.