We have all heard that sugar free chewing gum can help prevent cavities and tooth decay; but at what age is it appropriate for your child to start chewing gum? The general rule is that before chewing gum, your child must understand that he or she should not swallow it. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that younger kids have a tendency to swallow gum and that doing so has the potential to cause serious problems.
To be on the safe side, the recommended age for allowing a child to chew gum is 4 years old. But even then it is important to remind them to only chew and never swallow. Most children don’t understand the concept of chewing without swallowing until they’re around 4 which is why starting off by offering them only half a stick may be the best plan while they get the hang of chewing. When shopping for gum, remember that sugarless gum with a seal from the American Dental Association is always the best choice because it has been shown to fight cavities by stimulating your mouth to make more saliva, which washes away food particles and neutralizes cavity-causing acids.
Many gums are sweetened with sugar, which increases the level of acid in the mouth, effectively canceling out the positive benefits of chewing gum. Gum that is approved by the American Dental Association has substituted sugar with Xylitol, a naturally occurring sweetener found in fruits and vegetables. Chewing gum with Xylitol is shown to work best when it’s chewed routinely just before a child’s adult teeth come in between 5 and 6 years old.
Chewing gum can be helpful in preventing cavities but it is not a substitute for brushing and flossing. Regardless of how much gum is chewed, it is still important for your child to brush their teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once.
If you have any questions about your child’s oral health, don’t hesitate to give us a call!