Study casts doubt on effectiveness of chewing gum
MEDELLIN, Colombia: New research from South America has questioned the clinical significance of chewing gum as an adjunct for daily oral health care and preventing oral diseases. The study found that daily consumption of sugar-free chewing gum only had a very limited effect on bacteria associated with dental caries and gingivitis.
The study, which was conducted between January 2011 and May 2012 by researchers at the University of Antioquia, included two sugar-substituted chewing gums containing either casein phosphopeptide-amorphous calcium phosphate (CPP-ACP), a milk-derived product that remineralizes teeth, or xylitol, a sugar alcohol approved for use in many common products, including oral hygiene products.
The researchers randomly divided 130 volunteer dental students aged 16 to 34 into three groups. The first group was asked to chew two pieces of CPP-ACP gum three times a day for 20 minutes after each meal. The second group chewed two pieces of xylitol gum for the same interval, while the control group received no chewing gum. The participants chewed the gum in addition to regular brushing and flossing.
Examination of the participants' saliva a month after baseline analysis revealed that the CPP-ACP group had a significant reduction in visible plaque score. However, there was only a limited effect regarding bacterial count. In both the xylitol gum and the control group, the researchers observed a reduction in the total salivary facultative bacterial load and Streptococcus mutans, the primary agent of dental caries. Changes in salivary Lactobacillus spp., which is usually benign except in the oral cavity where it has been associated with cavities and tooth decay, were observed only in the xylitol gum group.
Although the findings indicate that daily chewing of sugar-substituted gum might have a reducing effect on the salivary microbiological levels, there was only a marginal benefit from the chewing gums, the researchers concluded. Thus, the clinical significance of chewing gum is uncertain, they said.
The study, titled "Comparison of the Effect of Two Sugar-Substituted Chewing Gums on Different Caries- and Gingivitis-Related Variables: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Controlled Clinical Trial," was published in the April issue of the Clinical Oral Investigations journal.