The NHS could save over £8 million a year on dental treatment if all 12-year-olds chewed sugar free gum after meals, a study claims.
Research published in the British Dental Journal estimates the saving - equivalent to 364,000 dental check-ups - for chewing three pieces per day.
This is thanks to the role chewing gum plays in helping prevent tooth decay, researchers from the Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry said.
Source: Government figures
The new research suggests the NHS could save up to £2.8 million on dental treatments per year if all 12-year-olds chewed one piece of sugar-free gum per day.
This cost saving rose to a potential £3.3 million if two pieces were to be chewed, and to £8.2 million for three pieces, researchers said.
Professor Liz Kay, of Peninsula Dental School, said:
The research, the first of its kind in the UK, was conducted by York Health Economics Consortium and Peninsula Dental School, with support from The Wrigley Company Ltd - a business that manufactures chewing gum.
For children over the age of seven, chewing sugar-free gum during the day can be "extremely effective" in breaking down lingering food, neutralising harmful plaque acids and reducing the risk of decay, researchers claim.