CHICAGO – The nation's largest dentist group now says gum can be good for you, as long as it's sugar-free.
The American Dental Association said Tuesday it has awarded its seal of acceptance to Wrigley sugar-free gums Orbit, Extra and Eclipse — based on studies funded at least partially by the maker of Wrigley gums, Chicago-based Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co.
It's the first time the ADA has allowed its seal to appear on gum after clearing it for thousands of other products since 1930.
The ADA said its independent review of the studies confirms those three gums have been shown to help prevent cavities, reduce plaque acid and strengthen teeth.
It said studies submitted by Wrigley showed that chewing those gum products for 20 minutes three times a day after meals increases saliva production. Saliva, the ADA said, helps neutralize and wash away plaque acid and bathes the teeth in minerals such as calcium, phosphate and fluoride, which are known to strengthen tooth enamel and help prevent cavities.
Clifford Whall, director of the ADA seal of acceptance program, said its council on scientific affairs found the studies, which focused solely on Wrigley products, had followed scientific principles.
"The council has looked at the body of data and concluded that there are some health benefits to chewing these products three times a day for 20 minutes," he said.
Wrigley paid $36,000 to submit its evaluation material — $12,000 per product. ADA also said Wrigley spends $35,000 to $45,000 in exhibit booth space at its annual meeting, advertising in its publications and on other sponsorships. It also pays $25,000 to help sponsor an ADA health screening program.
Consumer advocate Peter Lurie said the dental association should test other products before issuing such a seal, with the system appearing to be biased in favor of large companies that can afford the clinical studies.
"As long as the testing process and the criteria for receipt of a seal is unclear, the exact meaning of the ADA's seal will remain obscure," said Lurie, deputy director of the Health Research Group at Public Citizen, the nonprofit consumer advocacy group founded by Ralph Nader.
Whall said the program exists solely to inform consumers and dentists about whether products do what their manufacturers say they do. The seal currently appears on various toothpaste, dental floss and oral rinse products.