The best way to clean your teeth each day is, of course, to brush them. Morning and night you scrub for a few minutes at the bathroom sink; you might even floss or flush with mouthwash for added cleanliness. All of these measures rid your mouth of the bacteria and acids that eat away at your tooth enamel, your mouth’s first line of defense against root canals, cavities, caps and dentures.

But, what happens between brushings?

For some of us, the time between cleaning sessions can be up to 12 hours. This gives bacteria plenty of time to work — you’ll be eating and drinking throughout the day, after all, which reintroduces the very residue that bacteria feeds on in order to create enamel-eating acids.

Of course, you can always make a point to brush after every meal; however, some students and workers don’t have the time in their schedules to slip away to the bathroom and brush every time they eat something. Fortunately for the time-crunched, researchers in the UK have come up with a solution: sugar-free gum.

By simply chewing sugar-free gum after a meal or snack, you’ll help food particles to dislodge from between your teeth. You may also notice that, while chewing gum, your mouth fills with a bit more saliva than usual. This can help to wash away or, at least, dilute the bacteria and acids that have begun to form after a meal.

The key to making this whole thing work is to make sure you’re selecting sugar-free gum. Even sticks with natural sugars will only exacerbate the bacterial situation. You also must make sure that you’re chewing for at least 20 minutes, which gives you time to build up enough cleansing saliva.

Again, the sugar-free gum routine should only be used in tandem with your regular brushing schedule. Together, these two habits can help keep bacteria — and dental work — at bay. Our Raleigh, NC dentist friends at Wells Family Dental have encouraged these types of habits for several years. Hopefully, more dental patients will take their advice and chew sugar free gum.