Sugar-free gum fails to fight plaque, study

By Catherine Boal

- Last updated on GMT

Gum-chewers hoping their habit will protect them from dental plaque
and tooth decay would be better sticking to brushing as scientists
reveal the preventative effects of sugar-free gum may have been

The sugar-free sector has been growing rapidly within the last decade - at odds to the slow pace of growth in the confectionery industry overall.

Since 1998 the total global candy market fell by an average of 0.1 per cent while sugar-free confectionery has grown by an average of 3.5 per cent per annum for the past seven years.

Sugar-free gum has been a particular favourite of consumers looking for a health-conscious choice and many manufacturers have responded by marketing increasingly more functional varieties of the confectionery.

Generally perceived as a low-calorie indulgence, the gum often promises additional benefits - the most common of which being dental health due to the presence of additives thought to enhance the mouth's natural plaque-fighting defences.

But results from a study by researchers at the University of Palermo, Italy show sugar-free gum has a minimal effect on dental health and its action on plaque is less effective than previously thought.

Researchers asked 12 volunteers, aged between 21 and 28 years, to chew one piece of sugar-free gum for 30 minutes after dinner, four times a day for four days.

During the four day test period, participants continued with their normal dietary habits but were forbidden from using mouthwashes or other gums.

In addition, the volunteers did not eat or drink for an hour after chewing.

The sugar-free gums contained lactoperoxidase, micro-granules of silicon dioxide and zinc gluconate - ingredients believed to act against plaque.

Little significant improvement was noted in antiplaque activity, leading the researchers to conclude the gum did not prevent plaque growth on the smooth surfaces of the teeth.

Elsevier's Journal of Dentistry, Volume 35, Issue 5, 'The effects of sugar-free chewing gums on dental plaque regrowth: A comparative study."

Giuseppe Pizzo, Maria Ester Licata, Monica La Cara, Ignazio Pizzo, Rosario Guiglia and Dario Melilli

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