Chewing sugarfree gum could save billions in the treatment of tooth decay

sugarfree gumChewing sugarfree gum could save billions worldwide, new research from Wrigley claims.

According to the World Health Organization website, tooth decay and oral diseases rank fourth among the most expensive global health conditions to treat. Each week, millions of patients worldwide use private and public dental services, costing the world economy billions every year. Tooth decay remains one of the most preventable oral diseases and yet still affects 60-90% of schoolchildren and nearly all adults globally. Treating caries places an increasing and significant strain on governments and populations, stressing the need for new innovative ways to reduce the burden of oral diseases on societies.

Sugarfree gum

A new study published in the American Journal of Dentistry (Rychlik et al, 2017) reveals that chewing just one additional piece of sugarfree gum each day could save £3.3 billion worldwide on dental expenditures from treating tooth decay.

The study, a first of its kind globally, was funded by WM Wrigley Jr Company and independently conducted by the Institute of Empirical Health Economics in Germany (IFEG) with input from an international scientific steering committee comprised of thought-leaders in dental and public health and economics, including Professor Elizabeth Kay of Peninsula Dental School, Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry. The study follows a piece of research in 2016 that revealed the NHS could save up to £8.2 million per annum if all 12-year-olds in the UK were to increase their chewing of sugarfree gum (Claxton, Taylor and Kay, 2016). Conducted by the York Health Economics Consortium and Peninsula Dental School, Plymouth University, with funding from Wrigley, the study was an initial exploration into the potential cost savings that chewing of sugarfree gum could bring.

‘The study represents a solid and substantial approach to the accurate calculation of cost savings in industrial countries that would arise from increasing sugarfree gum consumption,’ said Professor Reinhard Rychlik, MA MD, PhD, PhD, director of the IfEG and the study’s lead author. ‘Chewing sugarfree gum as a preventive measure for tooth decay has the potential to deliver significant dental care cost savings worldwide.’

‘Simple but effective’

Dr Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation commented on the new global research: ‘The findings of the 2016 UK pilot study had demonstrated that sugarfree gum is a simple but effective way of helping people improve their oral health. The numbers for the UK alone were significant and showed us that there is real potential to create substantial savings, which would relieve the growing pressure on our healthcare system. Seeing these results at a global level is hugely exciting, and we hope the research will encourage dental professionals to communicate the potential role that sugarfree gum can play in preventing dental decay as part of a good oral care regime.’

Chewing sugarfree gum increases the production of saliva, which can help wash away food particles and can help to restore optimum plaque pH levels faster, according to the EFSA website. These benefits can help prevent dental cavities, leading to potentially major cost savings for health-care systems. They are currently recognised by leading oral organisations and experts including the OHF, the World Dental Federation and the European Commission. The Global HECON study emphasises these benefits and clearly demonstrates the potential cost savings of regular chewing of sugarfree gum on the world population and economy.

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Claxton L, Taylor M and Kay E (2016) Oral Health Promotion: The Economic Benefits of Sugarfree Gum in the UK. BDJ 220(3): Feb 12 2016

Rychlik R, Kreimendahl F, Blaich C, Calache H, Garcia-Godoy F, Kay E, Si Y, Zilberman D and Zimmer S (2017) A global approach to assess the economic benefits of increased consumption of sugar-free chewing gum. Am J Dent in press

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