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Gum and Braces: It’s a Sticky Situation

Posted June 23, 2014

When it comes to chewing gum while wearing braces, some orthodontists believe it’s not harmful, and even can be helpful. Alternately, others warn it can lead to decay, lengthened orthodontic treatment and an overall compromised end result to treatment. We’re the first to agree it’s a sticky situation, but we are firm in our stance.

Our stance

If you are a soon-to-be patient at Bronsky Orthodontics, you’ll find out what our patients already know: that braces and gum don’t mix. But we don’t expect you to just ignore alternative views and accept ours simply because “we said so.”  Instead, we would rather you be informed of the pros and cons of the argument, so you can make an educated decision about something that could impact your oral health and orthodontic treatment. 

Pros vs. Cons

Orthodontists who encourage their patients to chew gum while wearing braces have two main beliefs when it comes to its benefits:

1.)   Prolonged chewing helps teeth move more efficiently.

They say: With each chewing movement, vibrational pressure is created. The pressure on your teeth is loaded and unloaded each time the mouth opens and closes, essentially wiggling the teeth into place quicker than if the patient abstained from gum chewing. 

We say: While chewing action can encourage tooth movement by putting additional pressure on the ligaments holding teeth in place, you get enough of this action from eating a typical day’s meals and snacks. Plus, excessive chewing weakens arch wires like the tab on a soda can; after you wiggle it back and forth enough times, it eventually snaps. A broken appliance will not control tooth movement, which means teeth may begin to shift back toward their original position before the appliance is fixed.

Even if your teeth were indeed moving quicker because of the increased chewing action, when your appliance breaks, it will be will like one step forward, two steps back.

2.)   Gum increases saliva production, which helps remineralize teeth and thwart decay because saliva has antibacterial properties.

They say: Gum chewing is good because additional saliva may help prevent decay and gingivitis that can be more prominent when patients are wearing braces, according to the Oral B website.

We say: While saliva does help remineralize teeth and protect them from decay, chewing gum does more damage than your increased saliva production can combat. Gum is not necessarily strong enough to dislodge a bracket. However, prolonged gum chewing – even if it is a sugar-free type – can wear away the cement that bonds brackets to teeth. This can create small pockets and crevices that are increasingly difficult to clean. The plaque and food that becomes trapped in these areas causes unnecessary decay that can set back treatment and compromise the beauty and health of your smile.

We prefer combatting the increased risk of cavities and gum disease during orthodontic treatment by giving our patients the proper tools and knowledge to keep their teeth and appliances clean and healthy during treatment. After all, the increased risk of decay is because oral hygiene is more difficult to maintain when there is an intricate appliance glued to the surface of your teeth. Keep your teeth clean and your appliances undamaged and you increase your chances of straight, healthy teeth in the time predicted.

Bottom line: just say no.

There is greater risk involved when chewing gum with braces than when not. You are gambling with the health of your teeth and the length of treatment each time you put a stick of chewing gum in your mouth.

Can’t kick the stick?

If you just can’t fathom an existence sans gum, we suggest asking Dr. Bronsky if you are a good candidate for Invisalign. Invisalign is an alternative to bracket and wire style braces that uses a series of clear, removable aligners to gradually straighten teeth. You can eat – or chew- whatever you want while being treated with Invisalign since you remove your aligners to eat, brush and floss your teeth. Just make sure you can squeeze your meals, snacks, gum chewing and oral care routine into a two-hour window, since Invisalign must be worn for at least 22 hours per day to work effectively.

There are many options for orthodontic treatment that can be crafted to suit your unique case and lifestyle. And if there is a lifestyle change you must make while wearing braces, remember, it’s only temporary. Those Laffy Taffy candies, ribs and Doritos aren’t going anywhere any time soon!

Our goal is to create a treatment plan that straightens your teeth effectively, without compromising your oral health. If you are ready to take the next step toward beautiful, straight teeth with braces, or simply have questions about treatment, call today for an initial consultation.