Chewing gum is tasty and fun. There are so many different brands and flavors to try! But what effect does it have on your teeth? You’ve probably heard some people say that chewing gum helps keep your teeth clean. You’ve also probably heard others say the exact opposite. How are we going to resolve this problem? We’re going to do an experiment.
How does chewing gum affect your teeth?
- 9 Volunteers
- 1 Apple, cut into 9 slices
- 3 Cups
- Mint-flavored gum
- Cinnamon-flavored gum
- Fruit-flavored gum
- 9 Pre-prepared petri dishes with agar
- Cotton Swabs
- Timer or Stopwatch
- Instruct each volunteer to eat a slice of apple. This is to introduce sugar to the mouth.
- When they’re finished, have each volunteer chew a stick of mint gum for 5 minutes.
- Gently swab each volunteer’s bottom gum line with a cotton swab about five times. Make sure you take your sample from the same gum line area for each volunteer. Consistency is important!
- Spread the contents of each cotton swab into its own petri dish.
- Label these three petri dishes “Mint”.
- Repeat steps 1 through 5 for cinnamon and fruit-flavored gum, using three new volunteers each time. Label the petri dishes according to what gum was used.
- Let the petri dishes sit in a dark area overnight.
- Which gum do you think will clean teeth the best? Write down your guess, also called a hypothesis, in your notebook.
- Examine the petri dishes the following morning.
- Photograph your petri dishes and take notes describing each dish’s germ growth in your notebook.
Fruity gum will have caused the most germ growth. Mint gum will have caused less germ growth. Cinnamon will have caused the least amount of germ growth.
Scientists have proven that gum chewing can help remove bacteria from our teeth because the friction from chewing gum rubs off many of the germs. However, this can never get rid of all the mouth’s bacteria. Sugar is like food for bacteria—the more sugar in the gum, the more the mouth’s bacteria will thrive. Fruit-flavored and other sugary chewing gums may remove some bacteria, but will cause their own bacterial growth in the mouth because of their high sugar content. Mint-flavored gums do an average amount of cleaning to the teeth because they generally have less sugar than fruity gums.
But why is cinnamon-flavored gum the best at cleaning teeth? Cinnamon has been scientifically proven to be a natural germ killer. Regardless of whether the gum has cinnamon oil, cinnamon flavor, or actual cinnamon as an ingredient, cinammon-flavored gum excels at cleaning bacteria from the mouth. What if you tried foods other than gum? Or replaced them with liquids? You‘re well on your way to becoming a scientist in the making. Keep experimenting!
Warning is hereby given that not all Project Ideas are appropriate for all individuals or in all circumstances. Implementation of any Science Project Idea should be undertaken only in appropriate settings and with appropriate parental or other supervision. Reading and following the safety precautions of all materials used in a project is the sole responsibility of each individual. For further information, consult your state’s handbook of Science Safety.