Chewing gum while wearing braces used to be one of the first things your orthodontist would advise you against. However, new research suggests chewing certain types of gum can actually be good for your teeth and braces.

The main risk when chewing gum with braces was getting it stuck between the brackets and wires of the braces, or even bending a wire and misaligning teeth. This was mainly a concern with sugary gum, but even larger amounts of sugar free gum could be a risk to braces.

Today, the materials used for braces are much more flexible and less likely to be damaged by chewing gum – as long as it’s sugar free.

Sugar free gum can also help prevent cavities! Research has found that the artificial sweetener ingredients found in many kinds of sugar free gum reduce the formation of bacteria that causes tooth decay. Chewing gum also increases the natural production of saliva, which helps wash bacteria away.

Gum can be a helpful part of your overall oral hygiene routine, especially if you’re unable to brush or floss immediately after eating: chewing sugar free gum for 20 minutes after a meal can protect your teeth and help clean food particles from your braces.

Be sure to discuss with your orthodontist if chewing gum is right for you and your particular orthodontic appliance, but overall, sugar free gum is a tasty way to keep your smile looking its best.