An interesting article titled “Oral health promotion: the economic benefits to the NHS of increased use of sugarfree gum in the UK” explores the effects of children chewing sugar free gum after eating or drinking in the U.K. Specifically the article finds out that in the National Health Service in England savings of £8.2 million a year could occur if all 12-year-olds across the U.K. chewed sugar free gum after eating or drinking, which is due to the role it plays in helping to prevent tooth decay. This savings would be equivalent to roughly 364,000 dental check-ups.
Sugar free gum can be an easy and effective addition to oral health routines. The British Dental Health Foundation recommends brushing for two minutes, twice a day and for children over the age of seven, chewing sugar-free gum during the day. This can be effective in breaking down lingering food, neutralising harmful plaque acids, and reducing the risk of decay.
Chewing sugar free gum after eating and drinking leads to increases in the production of saliva, which can help wash away food particles and neutralise harmful plaque acids. In addition, it promotes the remineralisation of tooth enamel. The benefits of sugar-free gum on the mouth is widely recognized and accepted by experts around the world. For some reason the article and authors only focuses on 12 year olds and specifically if 12 year olds chew sugar free gum three times a day. If the model that is used in the article is applied to other age groups additional cost savings can be seen.
A total of more than 1 million patients in the U.K. use National Health Service dental services for the treatment of dental disease, which costs the National Health Service £3.4 billion a year. A 2013 study showed that 34% of 12 year olds in the U.K. have obvious decay in their permanent teeth which could lead to a bunch of treatment costs over their lives.
It is important to note that the health care and dental care system in the U.K. has been criticized before for just focusing on strategies to reduce costs which may come at the expense of health. However, in this case if the benefits of chewing sugar free gum are true than certainly using it in addition to regular brushing and flossing seems like a viable strategy.
Source: L. Claxton, M. Taylor, E. Kay. Oral health promotion: the economic benefits to the NHS of increased use of sugarfree gum in the UK. British Dental Journal, 2016, 220, pages 121 – 127.