This article was written by Dr. Kimberly Dyoco, an avid dental health blogger who enjoys sharing her expertise and knowledge on a variety of publications.  She is a general and cosmetic dentist in Chicago and the founder of the practice One Mag Smile on the famous Magnificient Mile in the heart of downtown Chicago. To learn more, visit

Most serious dental health problems are caused by bad habits: eating junk food, drinking soda, not flossing or brushing regularly and avoiding the dentist, just to name a few.

Unfortunately, bad habits we’ve had for many years can be very hard to break because they’re ingrained in our daily behavior and routines.

But the good news is that, unlike genetics, we are in control of our behavior and, with a bit of effort and commitment, we can break the habits that have the worst impact on our health.

Why Quit Gum?

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One unhealthy practice that wreaks havoc on teeth is chewing sugary gum, something that many people do without even thinking. However, it’s important to realize that every time you pop a stick of gum in your mouth, you’re steadily depositing sugar onto your teeth for the whole period in which the gum releases its flavor.

Think of it like this: chewing on a piece of gum for 15 minutes is like eating candy constantly for a quarter of an hour, which most people understand very well is harmful to your teeth. The longer a sugary substance stays in your mouth, the more harm it does.

The bacteria that naturally occur in your mouth will feed off the sugar, contributing to tooth decay that, in turn, can lead to gum disease and even tooth loss over time. Obviously, no habit is worth risking the health of your teeth, so giving up gum is the only smart choice.

But do you have to go cold turkey or are there healthy alternatives out there that can help you keep your breath fresh and address an oral fixation? Luckily for you, there are…

1. Ginger

If you’d like to go even more natural when it comes to your breath freshener, try chewing on a bit of raw ginger. The flavor is pretty strong, so just a small slice will do. The best part is that ginger not only freshens breath but is also great for digestion and works as a natural anti-inflammatory.

2. Mint

If you’re looking for minty-fresh breath, why not go right to the source? You can pick up a small peppermint or spearmint plant and put it near a window that gets good morning light. Keep a few leaves with you in a little baggy and when you feel that your breath might need some help, chew on a mint leaf or two for a quick kick of freshness.

3. Parsley

There’s a reason that many meals are garnished with parsley – the ancient Romans included a sprig of the herb with a meal specifically for its natural powers to neutralize food smells. You can take part in this centuries-old tradition by doing as the Romans did and chewing on a bit of parsley and letting the herb’s high chlorophyll content deodorize your mouth.

4. Cinnamon Sticks

It may be a bit more conspicuous than a stick of gum, but chewing on a cinnamon stick can address an oral fixation as well as bad breath. The essential oils released from chewing lightly on the cinnamon stick will help kill odor-causing bacteria in your mouth.

5. Tea Tree Chewing Sticks

These little sticks resemble toothpicks, but they’re made to be chewed on for a while so they won’t splinter. The tea tree oil has natural antibacterial agents, so it’s good for oral health and breath, and the act of chewing on them helps some people with the transition as they quit smoking.

If you’re still chewing gum made with real sugar, it’s time to quit the habit now. Throw that sugary stuff in the garbage and explore these healthier options to find the best alternative that works for you.

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