OK. Admit it. At least at one point in our lives all of us probably liked candies like tic-tacs and other types of mints, and ate them all the time. Plenty of us also chew gum on a regular basis. While there are some benefits to using mints or gum (freshening breath, increasing saliva flow), there are also some major negatives too; they can cause cavities if they are high in sugar.
When it comes to eating, everyone has certain tendencies. For example, when you chew your food you most likely chew it on the same side the majority of the time. Me? I usually chew my food on the left side of my mouth. Now, when someone eats a mint, they generally let it sit in one place in their mouth every time; usually in the back somewhere resting between the cheek and a tooth.
If someone is eating mints all day, and placing the mints in the same place every time, you are creating a very sugary environment that allows the bacteria in your mouth to grow and accumulate; eventually, causing a cavity to form on the side of your tooth.
Now, I will admit that the candy and gum companies have become better over the last few years concerning what types of sugars they use. There is one ingredient that most companies have started using more and more that actually HELPS the mouth FIGHT cavities and the bacteria in your mouth. It's called XYLITOL.
What's "Xylitol?" It is a sugar alcohol sweetener used as a sugar substitute. Basically, the bacteria in mouth can't use xylitol for energy, so they starve and can't multiply. Xylitol has also shown to have less calories than regular sugar (sucrose), and can be beneficial for diabetics as well by lowering one's blood sugar. **Please consult with your doctor or nutritionist before using xylitol if you are on a diabetic diet to make sure using xylitol is safe for you.
Now, what gums and candies have it? Like I said before, most companies now have at least one type of gum or mint that has it in it. The next time you are in the supermarket look at the ingredients of your favorite gum or mint, and see if xylitol is listed. IN ORDER FOR XYLITOL TO BE EFFECTIVE, IT MUST BE LISTED WITHIN THE FIRST THREE (3) INGREDIENTS. It it's not, find another gum or mint to use.
Some gums that I have seen it in are: Hershey's Ice Cubes, UP2You, and Trident.
If you like to go to Whole Foods, they sell xylitol-based gums and candy. I'm sure Trader Joe's does as well.
So, if you want to keep chewing gum or mints, that's fine; just make sure that it has xylitol in it!
You can learn more about xylitol and it's benefits by going here: www.xylitol.org and here: WebMD
**PLEASE NOTE**: Xylitol is also a laxative. If taken in high doses of more than 50 grams a day for adults & 20 grams a day in children (per WebMD), it can cause stomach irritation. You would have to chew a lot of gum and mints in order to reach that amount!
**DOG OWNERS**: While xylitol is not toxic to humans, it is toxic to dogs. So, please be safe & make sure you put your xylitol sweets in a place where they cannot be reached by your pet!