What is Sugar Free Chewing Gum?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Gum chewing is certainly not new, and didn’t originate as an idea of the first commercial manufacturers of gums. Many native populations have chewed various substances as a sort of gum including spruce gum, chicle and various other tree resins. It can be said that the earliest gums were sugar free chewing gum, though today’s variants are likely more palatable to modern taste sensibilities.

Xylitol, which is used to make many sugar free chewing gums.
Xylitol, which is used to make many sugar free chewing gums.

When gum was first manufactured commercially, most brands did contain quite a bit of sweetener, and some people grew concerned about sugar consumption as the century reached its midpoint. To satisfy concerns that sugar consumption could be unhealthy, sugar free chewing gum emerged in the mid-20th century and essentially substituted artificial sweeteners for sugar.

A stick of sugar-free gum.
A stick of sugar-free gum.

One sweetener, cyclamate, was used in most early versions of sugar free chewing gum, though health concerns about this substance began to grow. In the 1970s governments like the US banned it, and other sugar substitutes were used instead. Today, sugar free chewing gum may contain several different substitutes, including sorbitol, aspartame or others.

A pack of sugar free chewing gum.
A pack of sugar free chewing gum.

When dentists grew concerned about the potential hazards to oral health of chewing gum, it was thought that gum might not ever redeem itself. Sugar free chewing gum was advocated for those determined to chew. In particular Wrigley’s first sugar free bubble gum Blammo® was thought a good alternative to sugar filled substances.

Some chewing gum brands contain teeth whitening agents.
Some chewing gum brands contain teeth whitening agents.

Marketing trends for sugar free chewing gum actually tended toward the gum for health reasons, and this has continued. There are now numerous companies that produce sugar free varieties and there is some evidence to suggest that chewing gum after meals can be beneficial for oral health and reduce teeth decay. However, some people do avoid many forms of artificial sweeteners. Sorbitol, one of the sweetening choices today, is considered a healthier choice.

Aspartame is used to sweeten many types of sugarless gum.
Aspartame is used to sweeten many types of sugarless gum.

Another sweetener made of the sugar alcohol xylitol is considered a natural substance and may be sold in various brands of natural chewing gum. It should be noted that not all gum labeled natural are sugar free chewing gum. Instead some contain cane juice or sugar that is naturally produced.

Today varieties of sugar free chewing gum account for a significant percent of chewing gum sales and angle on sales still leans toward dental health. Some gums even contain whitening agents that may help brighten teeth. It is thought that the occasional stick (or pad or square) of sugar free gum is probably a great idea, especially when people don’t have the opportunity to brush their teeth after a meal.

Chewing sugar-free gum after meals can be beneficial for oral health.
Chewing sugar-free gum after meals can be beneficial for oral health.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

anon25761

Hi this is santiago francis from Bangalore South India. I would like to know how sugerfree chewing is good for teeth and for the bones in our mouth. Because i am asking this qs so as to know that i am a diabetic aged of 33 and I like to chew orbit gum and strengthen my teeth and make it clean. Is it good or bad?-Thankfully Yours-Santiago Francis

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