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Flavored Gum Kills Bad-Breath Germs

Cinnamon Gum Halves Halitosis, Other Flavors Also Help
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April 6, 2004 -- Gum chewing kills off bad-breath germs. But only if it's flavored with "breath freshening" oils, a new study shows.

Natural germ killers are a particular interest of University of Illinois at Chicago researcher Christine Wu, PhD. Wu has found that several plant essential oils kill the germs that cause cavities and bad breath.

Yes, bad breath. You don't have to eat a garlic pizza to have it. Some of the germs that live in your mouth give off a chemical called hydrogen sulfide. Essentially, they're microscopic stink bombs.

In a study funded by Wrigley, Wu's team looked at whether chewing gum favored with plant oils could do more than sweeten the breath. They enrolled 15 volunteers who chewed cinnamon-flavored Big Red brand gum, another flavored gum, or an unflavored gum base.

Without knowing which gum they were getting, each study participant chewed each gum for 20 minutes. An observer made sure they chewed at the rate of one chew every second. If you're counting, that's 1,200 chews per stick of gum.

The researchers took a saliva sample before the gum chewing began, and 20 minutes after spitting it out. They put each saliva sample in a culture dish and allowed to grow for three days.

The results: Chewing unflavored gum had no effect. Chewing Big Red, however, cut the stinky germs in half. That, Wu says, is because the gum contains cinnamic aldehyde -- cinnamon oil -- a known germ killer.

Chewing a different flavor of gum -- a flavor other than cinnamon -- resulted in a 42% reduction in hydrogen-sulfite-emitting germs. Wu attributes this effect to a small amount of plant essential oil in the anonymous gum.

"Our study shows that chewing gum can be a functional food, having a 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 in a news release. "The product doesn't just mask foul mouth odor. It eliminates the bacteria that cause it -- at least temporarily."

Wu presented the findings at last month's annual meeting of the International Association of Dental Research.

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

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American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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