Islamabad - Dentists recommended that chewing sugar-free gum can be helpful but instead of sugar-based chewing gums. Dr Sujay Mohan Rai, medical director and specialist prosthodontics, NMC Royal Medical Centre said: “Constantly chewing gum will affect your dental health. When you eat food or consume beverages with sugar or starch, bacteria in the mouth releases acids that attack your tooth enamel. Gum tissue pulls away from the teeth, allowing the bacteria to destroy underlying bone supporting the teeth.” Bad breath or halitosis is primarily caused by the bacteria present in the mouth that acts upon the retained food particles to release volatile sulphur compounds. Other reasons are poor oral hygiene, gum diseases, cavities, dry mouth, tobacco in any form, certain types of food like garlic, onion, coffee and refined sugars. Non-oral causes could be infections and conditions affecting throat, lungs, stomach etc.

“One of the most common perceptions among the people to fight halitosis is to use chewing gum. Though chewing gum causes more salivation initially thereby diluting the bad breath, the effect is lost after a few minutes. Sugar is one of the common ingredients in most of the gums available. The bacteria in the mouth quickly feeds on sugar to quickly reproduce and produce more volatile sulphur compounds, which makes halitosis even worse. It is better to use sugarless gums or gums fortified with probiotics, zinc acetate and magnolia bark extract or eucalyptus-extract,” said Dr Padma Gandi, specialist endodontist, RAK Hospital. The dentist strongly recommends sugar-free gums as they help protect your teeth from cavities. This is because xylitol prevents the growth of bacteria that causes tooth decay and bad breath. In fact, chewing xylitol sweetened gum reduces the amount of bad bacteria in the mouth by up to 75 per cent. Chewing gums may also help people to quit smoking.

Chewing gums sweetened with sugar is really bad for your teeth. This is because sugar is digested by the bad bacteria in your mouth, causing an increase in the amount of plaque on the teeth and tooth decay over time. Constant chewing could lead to a jaw problem called Tempromandibular disorder (TMD), which causes pain when you chew, according to Dr Gulrez Qadri, dentist, Zulekha Medical Centre.

“There are several reasons which lead to bad breath. The most common reason is to eat foods like raw onion whereas other reasons could be related to digestive issues. No matter what, it is always good to keep mouth-fresheners handy. Antiseptic mouthwashes are available in different concentrations, designed to reduce the majority of bacteria near the gum line.  Using an antiseptic mouth wash can help to decrease your chances of developing gingivitis.

Also be sure to keep mouth washes out of reach of children, as it contains alcohol and other substances that could be harmful to them.

Avoid letting children under the age of six to use mouth rinse and discontinue if you experience a burning sensation in the soft tissue of your mouth.  Food that act as natural mouth fresheners for good breath are fennel seeds, peppermint leaves, cloves, salt water mouth washes, apple cider vinegar, sage, green tea, pineapple, lemon, tea tree oil, cardamom, fenugreek, coriander, guava leaves etc.” Dr Sangeetha Nair, general dentist at Al Tadawi Medical Centre, warns that constantly chewing sugar sweetened gum is bad for teeth and can cause health issues like obesity and diabetes. “The sugar alcohol used to sweeten sugar-free gums has a laxative effect and when used in large amounts can lead to digestive distress, especially in people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) - a common disorder that affects the large intestine.”

How do you fight bad breath? There is no long-term permanent solution for bad breath. It has to be an ongoing effort coupled with various activities done together regularly. Bad breath is in fact one of the most common reasons why people visit the dentist because it is an immensely embarrassing problem. “Regular dental visits are a must to ensure a healthy mouth. This needs to be coupled with healthy oral hygiene practices and dietary habits will take care of the bad breath issue. Additionally sugar-free gum, a non-alcoholic mouthwash and strong toothpaste can also be used to eliminate bad breath. However, it is best that this should be consulted with a dentist because sometimes bad breath could be the result of an underlying health condition,” cautioned Dr Sabeer Abdul Salam, specialist endodontist at Aster Clinic, Al Qusais.

Dr Yasmin Al Bashatli, dentist at Medcare Medical Centre - Sharjah, strongly recommends sugar-free gum and wide range of natural and artificial mouth fresheners to help maintain oral hygiene. Bashatli said: “Chewing sugar-free gum could help protect your teeth from cavities. This is because xylitol prevents the growth of the bacteria that cause tooth decay and bad breath. In fact, one study found that chewing xylitol-sweetened gum reduced the amount of bad bacteria in the mouth by up to 75 per cent.  Chewing gum after a meal also increases saliva flow. This helps wash away harmful sugars and food debris, both of which feed bacteria in your mouth and causing bad breath.” Regular dental visits are important because they help to keep your teeth and gums healthy. During the dental check-up, your dental professional will check your overall oral health for any trouble areas. During the cleaning, your dental professional will remove any plaque and tartar buildup and may polish your teeth. These regular dental visits are essential for the maintenance of healthy teeth and gums. And in between those examinations, it’s important that you work to keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy,” adds Dr Rai. Dr Nair endorsing similar view said: “As long as you brush properly, regularly, including the tongue, use a mouth rinse and follow steps of proper oral care, you would not require a mouth freshener. In case of an emergency for a quick fresh breath, you can always opt for a sugar-free chewing gum.”