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Cosmetic Dentistry: Chewing gum may trap as much oral bacteria as flossing

By February 10, 2015 No Comments

Chewing gum has been associated with oral benefits such as fighting caries and increasing salivary flow. Now a new study has found that it can remove bacteria from the oral cavity.

In fact, chewing gum may remove as much bacteria as brushing without toothpaste or flossing, according to the authors of the study, which was published in PLOS One (January 20, 2015) and funded by Wrigley!

“This study was initiated as a method development study to determine the number of bacteria that are trapped in a piece of sugar-free gum,” said study author Stefan Wessel, a doctoral candidate from the department of biomedical engineering at the University of Groningen and University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands…According to our knowledge, this is the first time that an estimate of the number of bacteria trapped in a piece of chewed gum is determined…

For their research, Wessel and colleagues included five healthy volunteers from the department of biomedical engineering and asked them to chew two types of commercially available sugar-free chewing gums for varying amounts of time up to 10 minutes…

The researchers used two novel methods to quantify and qualify numbers of oral bacteria trapped in chewed gum. The numbers were determined either in terms of colony-forming units (CFUs) after sonication and agar plating or the total number of bacteria, as obtained after dissolving the gum and performing quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) on bacterial DNA.cosmetic dentistry . With the CFU method, known numbers of different oral bacteria were finger-chewed into commercially available spearmint gums, which were molded to standard dimensions, sonicated, and plated to determine numbers of CFUs incorporated. In the second method, known numbers of bacteria were finger-chewed into gum, which was then dissolved in a mixture of chloroform and tris-ethylenediaminetetraacetic-acid (TE)-buffer. The TE-buffer was analyzed using qPCR, enabling the researchers to compare the total numbers of bacteria.

The researchers also used the two methods on the gum chewed by the five volunteers and compared the numbers with those from the finger-chewed gum. They also showed bacterial presence in chewed gum using scanning electron microscopy (SEM).

The researchers found that around 108 bacteria were detected per gum piece, depending on the method and gum considered.

“Although this number may be considered low, it shows that when gum is chewed on a daily basis, it may contribute on the long term to reduce the bacterial load in the oral cavity,” wrote the authors.

The maximum bacteria were trapped during the initial chewing period, after which a slow decrease over time up to 10 minutes was observed. This decline was seen with both methods regardless of the type of gum involved.

While the initial gum bases are most adhesive to oral bacteria, continued chewing changes the structure of the gum and decreases the hardness of the gum because of salivary uptake and release of water-soluble components, the study authors noted.

“This presumably affects the adhesion of bacteria to the gum, causing a release of initially trapped, more weakly adhering bacteria from the gum,” they wrote…

The mechanical action of floss wire removes a comparable number of bacteria, as established in an unpublished pilot study involving three volunteers who used 5 cm of floss wire, the authors added.

Wessel emphasized that brushing and flossing remain more effective in reaching many areas in the mouth, and that sugar-free chewing gum should not be seen as a replacement but as an addition to both techniques.

The study findings may promote the development of gum that selectively removes specific disease-related bacteria from the human oral cavity, for instance by using porous type calcium carbonate, the authors noted.

A gradual removal of bacteria from the oral cavity by chewing gum is preferable to sudden ecological shifts that can change the relationship between the oral microbiome and the host as another potential cause of disease, they concluded….read more

At London Smile Care we recommend that all our patients to continue using the tooth brush and floss to help with plaque control. Regular visits to the dental hygienist is strongly recommended to update you on the best techniques of plaque control to maintain the health of your teeth and gum.

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