Chewing gum does have some important benefits to dental health, Dr. Hinze said.

However, only certain kinds of sugar-free gum are recommended by Dr. Hinze and by the American Dental Association.

“If it starts with an X, it’s good for you,” Dr. Hinze said.

He is talking about the ingredient Xylitol, which is a natural sweetener found in many types of chewing gum, including Trident, Extra, Orbit and Icebreakers.

“Chewing gum increases saliva flow, which decreases the acid in the mouth,” Dr. Hinze said. “It makes the bacteria in your mouth starve to death.”

Chewing gum after a meal, especially when you don’t have a chance to brush, can help clear away bacteria and prevent cavities. Gum chewing also can strengthen the tooth’s enamel.

However, gumballs and gums with sugar can cause problems and increased tooth decay.

“Anytime you introduce sugar to your mouth, it can cause decay for at least the next 20 minutes,” Dr. Hinze said.

In his 40-plus years of being a dentist, he has never seen problems related to chewing sugar-free gum and encourages it for his patients.

But, remember that chewing gum, even sugarless gum, does not replace a recommended regular routine of brushing twice per day and daily flossing.

To set up an appointment with Dr. Hinze to check your teeth for decay or cavities, contact the office at (308) 995-5331.