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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.