Letter in response to ‘Jamie Oliver calls for a Singapore-style ban on chewing gum in public‘, published in the Independent online, 13.04.2015.
After reading the article on Jamie Oliver’s manifesto for a “healthier, happier and cleaner” UK, I was quite perturbed by his pledge to ban chewing gum.
Being a chef who has influenced policy in the past, he has consistently demonstrated the importance of healthy diets and has been a significant figure in educating millions of Britain’s about the value of eating and drinking healthily.
But I’m afraid this time he has got it wrong.
There’s no getting away from it, sugar has regrettably become a more prominent part of our daily diet. Added sugars are now a feature in all too many foods, particularly processed foods while sweet treats have steadily become the norm. In some capacity, there is sugar in everything we eat and drink so it is more important now than ever that we understand what we consume and how we can combat the impact which sugar has on our health.
Reducing the amount and frequency of which we consume sugary foods and drinks is of course essential for our general health, as demonstrated by its impact on the current rise in obesity, but there is a critical factor that often gets overlooked and that is regarding our oral health.
I absolutely agree with his call to resist energy drinks, which are packed full of sugar, however, sugar-free chewing gum has so many health benefits that I’m staggered by his proposal to ban it – especially as his manifesto focusses directly on improving health.
When adopting a healthy diet we need to include those foods and eating habits that counteract the damaging effects of dietary acids and sugars on the teeth. Adopting the simple dental hygiene habit of chewing sugar-free gum after every eating and drinking occasion is an essential and convenient way of looking after our oral health while on the go.
Chewing sugar-free gum washes away food debris, helps to neutralises damaging plaque acids and remineralises tooth enamel by stimulating the flow of saliva which helps protect teeth throughout the day, helping to prevent dental erosion.
Every year as a nation we spend millions of pounds on dental treatment that can often be prevented. By brushing twice a day, cutting down on sugary foods and drinks, visiting the dentist as often as they recommend and chewing sugar-free gum, we can help reduce the amount of invasive and expensive treatment we put ourselves through.
While Jamie says “I’d ban chewing gum until they can invent one that doesn’t make every street in Britain look like a bomb site,” I think we all know that it’s not chewing gum that is the problem. None of us want to see Britain’s streets look unsightly but banning chewing gum, which has significant health benefits, is not the solution. It is important that we continue to chew sugar-free gum but let’s all be responsible with disposing it in a socially and environmentally friendly fashion.
Wrapping our gum up and putting it in the bin is a far simpler and health conscious message than a Singapore-style ban, and should be the real focus of Jamie’s “healthier, happier and cleaner” manifesto.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE
Chief Executive, British Dental Health Foundation