Differences in Self-reported Total Number of Cavities for Gum-chewers Versus Non-Gum Chewers Katelyn R.

Plutt College of St. Benedict/St. John¶s University The chewing of gum is said to be the world¶s most common habit. As most individuals are aware of, poor dental hygiene can result in tooth decay which ultimately causes cavities. With a large population of gum-chewers, chewing gum has long been debated as to whether it has a positive or negative effect on an individual¶s teeth. The popular perception of chewing gum is that it has a negative effect on teeth and dental hygiene. This is because gum typically contains some type of sweetener which if chewed too often or not removed from the mouth, can cause several serious dental problems. On the other hand, recent studies have shown that chewing gum can have an indirect, positive effect on dental hygiene and the health of teeth. Chewing gum after a meal can help stimulate the production of saliva and overall salivary flow. Saliva can help wash away and neutralize the acid produced by bacteria in plaque. This is the acid that promotes dental decay. If this is correct, one would predict that gum-chewers would have had fewer cavities in their lifetime than non-gum chewers. This was the hypothesis for this study. Method The participants were 36 non-gum chewers and 34 gum-chewers from two private, Catholic, single-sex, liberal arts campuses enrolling about 93.5% Caucasian students, and with a joint academic curriculum and course catalog that, for all practical purposes, cause the two campuses to function as a single institution. In order to conduct this study, each participant was required to complete a two-question survey which was handed out randomly over the length of a week. After each survey was distributed and completed, the participant was instructed place it in a large envelope which was positioned next to them. Each participant was instructed to this to ensure confidentiality and anonymity. The first question asked the participant to answer whether or not they chew gum on a daily basis. Following this, a fill-in-the-blank question required each participant to state how many cavities they have had in their lifetime. Results Alpha was set at .05. The difference between self-reported total number of cavities for non-gum chewers (M = 3.69; SD = 2.94) and gum-chewers (M = 2.56; SD = 2.54) was not statistically significant, t(68) = 1.73, p = .089. The effect size was .413. With a result of .413, this would be categorized as a medium effect size. The power for this study was .47 per group which is less than the goal of obtaining .8 power. In order for a medium effect size to reach .80 power, more than 64 participants per group would be needed. Discussion Contrary to the predicted results, the difference in the number of cavities between gum chewers and non-gum chewers is not statistically significant. These results may suggest that dental hygiene is not affected by chewing gum. After analyzing the data, it is clear that the non-gum chewing participants, on average, have more cavities. While this supports my hypothesis, because of the medium effect size, the difference does not have much practical importance. Perhaps, the gumchewing participants, on average, take better care of their teeth or have strong dental genes. It may be interesting to replicate this study with more participants or participants with more extreme gumchewing habits.

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