Chewing Gum and Bad Breath
There is a growing list of foods that are not only nutritious but are functional as well. Functional in the sense that they contain various beneficial properties that can promote health. Chewing gum and bad breath-stopping properties have also made it to the list.
Researchers at the University of Illinois in Chicago has recently conducted a study on chewing gum and bad breath in an effort to find a cure for this often embarrassing condition.
With findings presented at the recent annual meeting of the International Association for Dental Research, the study found that Big Red – the popular cinnamon-flavored chewing gum made by Wrigley’s – has the capability of reducing bacteria in the mouth. These bacteria have long been identified by scientists as the reason why some people develop bad breath.
Christine Wu, professor of periodontics and associate dean for research at the UIC College of Dentistry commented that the connection between chewing gum and bad breath was not surprising. The gum, Big Red, used in the study contained cinnamic aldehyde, a plant essential oil used for flavoring.
In her previous studies on chewing gum and bad breath as well as natural antibacterial agents from plant sources that can suppress oral pathogens, Wu found that most of the plant essential oils that she tested can inhibit the growth of bacteria responsible for periodontal infections and cavities.
She also states that by inhibiting the growth of these bacteria, the release of volatile substances causing bad breath is prevented.
“In laboratory tests, some of these oils also prevented the growth of three species of oral bacteria associated with bad breath and the production of volatile compounds that cause the unpleasant smell,” she explains.
After learning of the laboratory findings from the Wrigley Company in Chicago, Wu decided to launch a clinical trial on the effects of chewing gum and bad breath. Using 15 subjects who were made to chew on one of three gums for 20 minutes, the study sought to compare three types of gums – one with cinnamic aldehyde (Big Red), one with natural flavors but no cinnamic aldehyde and one that is made entirely of base with neither flavors or oil.
Afterwards, the subjects were made to stop chewing the gum. Their saliva was then tested and compared with samples collected before the test or chewing began. Through microbiological analysis, the study showed that the gum containing cinnamic aldehyde was able to reduce the number of anaerobic bacteria in the saliva by 50 percent. The gum was also particularly effective on anaerobic bacteria that usually resided on the back of the tongue, reducing the population by 40 percent.
“Our study shows that chewing gum can be a functional food, having significant impact on oral hygiene over the short term, if it contains antimicrobial agents such as cinnamic aldehyde or other natural active compounds,” Wu said. “The product just doesn’t mask foul mouth odor; it eliminates the bacteria that causes it, at least temporarily.”