You may remember an orthodontist telling you that braces and chewing gum don’t mix.
But the truth is that there are pros and cons to chewing gum while wearing braces. Some orthodontists recommend never chewing gum, but others say it’s fine to chew gum occasionally.
Read on to learn when it’s OK to chew gum while having orthodontic work done (and when it’s not). We’ll also explain which type of gum is best to chew and which kinds you should always avoid.
Whether you have braces or not, you should never chew gum containing sugar. This type of gum can cause bacteria to coat your teeth, which can lead to:
Newer material used in braces also differ significantly from those used in previous braces. Wires may be more flexible than they used to be and less likely to bend from chewing gum.
But you should ask your dentist or orthodontist before you decide to chew gum, as it can be difficult to know exactly what materials may have been used in your braces.
If you chew gum and have braces, here are the pros and cons you should consider.
- Chewing sugarless gum helps increase saliva production. This neutralizes and washes away acids produced when foods and drinks are broken down by plaque bacteria on teeth.
- A small 2012 study and a 2016 study showed that chewing gum may reduce the impact and pain caused by getting braces put on teeth. These same studies also found that chewing gum didn’t cause damage to braces.
- Chewing gum, whether it is sugarless or not, can harm braces. Gum is sticky and can easily get stuck in the brackets and wires that traditional braces have as well as adhere to elastics (rubber bands).
- Gum can cause even flexible wires to bend and adversely impact the effectiveness of your braces to straighten teeth. Even a slight bend in a wire can cause teeth to move in the wrong direction, interfering with proper alignment and adding weeks to treatment.
- You may be tempted to remove rubber bands when you chew gum. If your orthodontist has told you to keep your rubber bands in all the time, this may prolong treatment.
Invisalign uses removable, clear aligners instead of wires and brackets to straighten teeth.
You should always remove your aligners from your teeth when eating or drinking. Do not chew gum while wearing aligners, as pieces of gum can become stuck inside them.
Excess saliva produced when you’re chewing gum can also stain your aligners or teeth if it seeps inside.
You can take out aligners to chew a piece of sugarless gum now and then, but you shouldn’t remove your aligners more often than it’s recommended, which can:
- delay progress
- prolong treatment
- cause pain
You may want to try mints that work with clear aligners to avoid experiencing:
- aligner damage
- prolonged treatment
Avoid sugared gums with Invisalign
Never chew gum that contains sugar while wearing Invisalign or any other brand of aligners.
Small amounts of gum or saliva lodged inside your aligners can cause bacteria to grow on teeth or along the gum line, increasing your risk of tooth decay, and cavities.
If chewing gum gets stuck in your braces, follow these steps:
- Use a soft toothbrush to brush off as much of the gum as possible. Do not use force or scrub too hard. This can damage wires and brackets.
- Use dental floss to ease out any gum left in your braces. This should help lift or loosen the remaining gum.
- Gently brush your teeth again.
- Rinse vigorously with mouthwash or warm salt water.
- Let your orthodontist know if these steps don’t remove the gum completely. A professional cleaning by your dentist or orthodontist will remove the gum without damaging or moving the wires or brackets.
Let your orthodontist know if gum has gotten into your braces, even if you’ve removed all of it.
The gum may have moved the wires slightly without you realizing it. If so, your orthodontist can check for movement and adjust your braces as needed.
Contact your orthodontist as soon as possible if:
- it feels like a wire snapped or is jutting into your cheek
- your gums feel painful, swollen, or tender
The best way to avoid damage to your braces from gum chewing is to simply not chew gum at all. If you must chew, do so for only a few minutes, after meals.
You can obtain more benefits from chewing sugarless gum by brushing and flossing teeth regularly. Drinking lots of water can also be beneficial for reducing tooth decay.
Keep in mind that protecting your braces also protects your teeth. Anything that causes harm to your braces may prolong the amount of time you need to wear them.
Chewing sugar free gum may be damaging to braces. But it may also have some benefits for teeth, such as reducing cavities. Just remember to avoid gum that contains sugar.
If you wear braces and chew gum, even if you wear removable aligners, it may be best for you to minimize the amount of gum chewing you do.