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Chewing for Health

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Michael Kelley

Michael Kelley, Senior Principal Scientist, Scientific and Regulatory Affairs at Wrigley, in conversation with Shahid Akhter, ENN, talks about the advent of new-era chewing gums that impact oral healthcare

Michael Kelley

Michael Kelley
Senior Principal Scientist,

Are there dental health benefits accruing from chewing sugar free gum?

Scientific studies suggest that chewing sugar-free gum is good for oral health, particularly the teeth. It increases saliva, which helps to keep the mouth moist and is the most powerful protector of the oral cavity. Saliva is, in fact, a key element in reducing harmful plaque acids.It is the mouths natural defence against acid.

Your teeth is most vulnerable to acid attack, following your breakfast or lunch or whenever you eat. The acid is accelerated by the plaque bacteria and the presence of sugar in food, gradually attacks the enamel and dentine of the tooth by dissolving them and this leads to the creation of a cavity.

Chewing gum stimulates the flow of saliva which neutralises acids from foods eaten and also remineralizes tooth enamel to help strengthen teeth. This can be countered by chewing sugar free gums that stimulate the flow of saliva which neutralises acids from foods eaten.

Moreover, chewing gum refreshes breath and prevents stains from accumulating and reduces plaque. Chewing sugar free gum has also been shown to be one of the most preferred treatments for dry mouth.

Finally, when it is not possible to brush your teeth every now and then, chewing sugar free gum ensures that the teeth remain clean and healthy after eating or drinking. So the oral care mantra is to eat, drink and chew.

What exactly is sugar free gum?

Sugar-free gum is free from any sugar in it. The taste is added using sweeteners, and therefore the gum does not lead to tooth decay. The gum releases its flavours over a period of time, just like ordinary gum.

What can be the best time for chewing sugar free gum and for how long?

Chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes, following meals and snacks has been proven to help protect your teeth. In studies on the effect of sugar-free gum on the development of cavities, those who chewed sugar free gum after eating had fewer cavities than those who did not. Chewing stimulates the salivary glands resulting in the flow rate by up to 10 times the resting state during the first few minutes of chewing and keeps it significantly elevated throughout prolonged chewing. Stimulated saliva also has a high bicarbonate concentration that enhances the capacity to neutralise acid.

Does chewing of sugar free gum impact stomach acidity?

Chewing of sugar free gum leads to sharp rise in saliva volume which contains bicarbonate and when swallowed, it affects acid neutralising properties in the stomach. Research on this issue reveals that patients who have a duodenal ulcer, or X-ray negative dyspepsia, benefit from chewing sugar free gum.

Has the sugar free gum been endorsed by any dental association or body?

The FDI World Dental Federation and more than 25 national dental associations have recognised and acknowledged the strength of the scientific evidence which supports chewing sugarfree gum. The FDI has even granted the use of its logo on Wrigley sugar free gum packs. Additionally, the European Commission has approved oral health claims for sugar-free chewing gum, one of the few food categories to gain such recognition. In 2009, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) approved claims that sugarfree chewing gum can help neutralise plaque acids, remineralise tooth enamel and reduce oral dryness.In 2011, EFSA approved additional claims which noted a relationship between two of the oral care benefits of chewing sugarfree gum – the neutralisation of plaque acids and the reduced demineralisation of tooth enamel – as being risk factors in the development of caries.

“Chewing sugarfree gum has also been shown to be one of the most preferred treatments for dry mouth”

Wrigleys contribution in the understanding and creation of chewing gums that impact oral healthcare?

According to the FDI World Dental Federation, tooth decay is one of the most common non-communicable diseases on the planet. It is largely preventable but instances of tooth decay remain unaddressed due to unavailable or insufficient oral care services.

Wrigley recognises the severity of this issue, and we are committed to collaborating with oral health experts to better understand and advance science in this area, for the mutual benefit of consumers and the scientific and public health communities.

Since the 1930s, Wrigley has been researching the oral health benefits of chewing gum. We have carried out internal research and partnered with leading independent researchers and academic institutions.

Were reaching consumers around the world through our Oral Care brands “ Extra, Freedent and Orbit “ and a united call to action: Eat Drink Chew. It was First launched in Australia in 2006 and now active in more than 40 markets, our Eat Drink Chew platform and accompanying Break Up with Lingering Food campaign show consumers that when brushing isnt possible, chewing sugarfree gum is a great way to help keep teeth clean and healthy after eating or drinking.

What have been your advances in scientific research?

Wrigley Science Institute was constituted in 2013 and restructured to form the Wrigley Science Advisory Council (WSAC) to promote and share Wrigleys scientific research by establishing advisory boards and peer reviews as needed.

The WSAC operates in conjunction with the Mars Science Advisory Council (MSAC), providing guidance on research and quality issues, as well as access to a vast external network that keeps the company abreast of advances, opportunities and challenges.

Wrigley is a founding partner of the Platform for Better Oral Health in Europe – a joint initiative of academics, chief dental officers, public health associations and the industry to advocate for a common European approach toward better prevention, education and access to oral care. The initiative is promoted and supported by Wrigleys Oral Healthcare Program and GSK Consumer Healthcare.

Tell us about Wrigleys oral health care programme?

Wrigleys commitment to oral care around the world is evident through the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Program (WOHP), which was initially launched in Germany in 1989 and now operates in more than 40 countries. Through this initiative, Wrigley partners with dentists and hygienists to help them improve patients oral healthcare routine through one extra, simple and enjoyable step: chewing sugar-free gum after eating and drinking. We equip dentists and hygienists with knowledge, resources and educational materials to help them integrate sugarfree gum into the preventative oral health routines of their patients. In fact, the WOHP was a founding corporate partner of the FDI Global Caries Initiative, a dental profession-led call to action to eliminate caries, and improve oral and general health.

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