Oral Care has been (and is) the largest segment of functionality for the chewing gum industry. From the original sugared gums, the concern that they can damage our teeth grows in almost every country so there is a clear shift towards sugar free (sometimes called “sugarless”) products. Market figures show this very clearly: While sugared gum sales are falling in almost every country year after year, sugarfree gum performance shows good health. But when we ask “How good is a sugarfree gum for our teeth?” we are due to start a tricky discussion. As there is no doubt that chewing a gum that contains no sugar will be better for our teeth than a sugared one, there is a controversy about some aspects like:
– Does it remineralize teeth?
– Does it neutralize plaque acids?
Many studies have been conducted and some tests have been defined. One of the most extended ones is carried out by an organization located in Basel, Switzerland named “Toothfriendly international”. They use in vivo pH telemetry tests to check if a product generates a decrease in pH in the mouth of the user below 5,7. Below this figure, it is considered to be too acidic and so potentially cariogenic and/or erosive. Sugared products usually give a result below 5,7. When a product does not generate this acidity in the mouth, the organization grants the producer the use of the “Happy tooth” logo in the packaging:
You can read more details about the organization, the tests and the certification on their web site: www.toothfriendly.ch
Then we can go into legislative field, which differs in each country and allows, or not, claim certain advantages. For instance, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) allows some particular claims.
A good summary of those claims are explained by Oliver Nieburg in his article “Sugar-free gum for dental health: Innovations in science”
The article mentions ingredients that have been around for many years: Xylitol, Recaldent, carbamide, peroxide, fluoride,… and highlights as well the controversy around some of them and the claims associated.
I would add some other ingredients that have been used in oral care gums since many years: Calcium orthophosphate (pH neutralizer), Sodium bicarbonate (pH neutralizer), Zirconium silicate (abrasive), Triclosan (bactericide), Clorhexidine, Papain, Zinc gluconate, Copper gluconate, Copper chlorophyllin, Parsley seed oil, Zinc acetate, Actizol, and even some enzymes such as Lactoperoxidase (LPO) or Glucoperoxidase (GPO).
In summary, oral care still is the leading trend driving chewing gum sales in most of the world, but research is needed in this field to have more solid ground for some claims.