Wrigley is urging consumers to chew sugar free gum as part of oral healthcare routines and dismisses that it is contributing to dental diseases through parent company Mars’ sugar-based products.
The company has been part of the Platform for Better Oral Health in Europe along with many dental associations since 2011.
It recently commissioned research to measure the drain treating oral diseases has on national health services in the EU and this year set targets up to 2020 to improve oral health in the EU, along with other Platform members.
Mars-Wrigley part of the problem?
Speaking to ConfectioneryNews, Alex Dalgleish, senior management in issues management and public affairs for Europe at Wrigley, said her company was encouraging chewing sugar free gum on the move as well as brushing twice a day and flossing.
We put it to her that sugar, which is rife in Wrigley’s parent company Mars’ products, was in part responsible for tooth decay, meaning that Mars-Wrigley could be accused of contributing to the problem it’s trying to fix.
“I don’t think it’s fair to say that,” said Dalgleish, adding that sugar wasn’t to blame.
According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS): “Tooth decay is often associated with sweet and sticky food and drink, such as chocolate, sweets, sugar and fizzy drinks”.
Dalgleish said in follow-up emails: “I am not disputing the advice of the NHS on tooth decay. But the key factors in promoting good oral health is a healthy balanced diet and a proper oral healthcare routine including regular dental check ups, brushing twice a day, flossing and chewing sugar free gum on the move.”
“It has been scientifically recognized that chewing sugar free gum for 20 minutes after eating and drinking stimulates the flow of saliva which washes away food debris, helping to neutralize damaging plaque acids and remineralize tooth enamel.”
Oral healthcare in Europe has become an economic burden, with €79bn spent annually on treating oral diseases across the EU, according to the Platform-commissioned research ,‘The State of Oral Health in Europe’, published last September. “If the trend continues it would be as high as €93bn in 2020,” said Dalgleish. “With Wrigley’s work in these areas we want to ensure the public are aware of the benefits of sugar free gum.”
EFSA sugar free gum claims
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has authorized health claims for sugar free gum, such as “helps to maintain tooth mineralization, neutralizes plaque acids and reduces oral dryness.”
Professor Damien Walmsley, scientific adviser to the British Dental Association, said chewing sugar free gum after meals could help to avoid decay.
“It is important that the gum is sugar-free though, because gum containing sugar will help to prolong the attack on your teeth by feeding the bacteria in your mouth that cause it.”
He added that sugary food and drink was a major cause of tooth decay, but it was more about the quantities consumed than consumption per se.
Wrigley’s innovation team is researching how active ingredients and technologies might assist teeth's natural mineralizing system. However, the company is keeping any developments under wraps.
Mondelez International previously told this site that enhanced tooth remineralization through active ingredients was the next big R&D area for health and wellness in gum.
A recent review by Keukenmeester et al. heralded antimicrobial agent chlorhexidine (CHX) as the stand out ingredient to improve plaque indices. The review was commissioned by ACTA Dental Research, which receives financial report from Wrigley. But the study authors said Wrigley had no say in the study design or outcomes.
Sweetener xylitol has an EFSA approved health claim to reduce plaque acids when used in sugar free gum.
With that in mind we asked Dalgleish go exclusively for xylitol if Wrigley was committed to the work of the Platform?
She said that Wrigley did have some gums containing xylitol, but would continue to use a range of sweeteners, including sucralose and aspartame.