I have a sugar free gum recipe that I'd like to add some grittiness to so that it scrubs teeth while it's being chewed. I need help finding an ingredient to add this grit, meeting the following specs:

  • Won't dissolve in water/saliva
  • Ingestible (generally regarded as safe)
  • Contains no sugars so that the product stays sugar free. Tooth-safe sugar replacements would be OK

I've been looking for an ingestible replacement to the microbeads that used to be used in exfoliating cleansers, but haven't found something that would meet the specs.

6 Answers 6


I found a patent application for Chewing gum possessing tooth cleaning effect and a teeth cleaning method. Paragraph 130 addresses polishing agents:

Consequently, a polishing material can be any material that does not abrade dental enamel and dentine. Typical materials include silica gels and precipitates, aluminas, phosphates, and mixtures thereof. Specific examples include dicalcium orthophosphate dihydrate, calcium pyrophosphate, Bamboo, tricalcium phosphate, hydrated alumina, beta calcium pyrophosphate, calcium carbonate, sodium polymetaphosphate, sodium hexametaphosphate, Calgen, Giltex, Quadrafos, Hagan phosphate, micromet, calcium phosphate dibasic, calcium monohydrogen phosphate, dicalcium orthophosphate secondary calcium phosphate, carbonic acid calcium salt, cacti, calcichew, calcidia, citrical, aragonite, calcite, valerite, aluminum oxide, alumina, silicon dioxide, silica, silicic anhydride, and resinous abrasive materials such as particulate condensation products of urea and formaldehyde and others such as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 3,070,510. Mixtures of polishing agents can also be used.

I don't know all those ingredients. The ones that looked interesting are food grade silica gel and bamboo (powdered form).

I was surpised to see calcichew and citracal in there, I'm not familiar with their abrasiveness.

Also, whole (not ground) Chia seeds.

  • 1
    +1 for the very relevant patent link. I think the product in the patent was trying to have only smaller granules than I'd like but I'm thinking that within this long list of possibilities, some will be available in a coarse grade. Thanks
    – pgarber
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 17:31

Baking soda is commonly used as a mild abrasive in toothpaste, and is a food ingredient.

Liquorice root is like a tasty chewy twig, and is chewed to clean teeth in some countries. Maybe you could chop some of that up if you can get it. Assuming the flavour is acceptable of course.

Otherwise you might be looking for seed husks of some sort, dried and ground. Cardamom perhaps? It's cooked in pilau rice and while you might choose to eat round it, accidentally biting into/swallowing a whole pod is normal. You'd have to experiment with how much of the flavour you can handle, and indeed with his much is in the husk.

Have you looked for traditional toothpaste recipes for ideas?

  • Thanks for the thoughts. Yes, I have studied toothpaste ingredients a good bit, which do have abrasive qualities. But, with a gum, I am looking for significantly bigger sized grains to replicate some of what toothbrush bristles provide. Baking soda is a good ingredient, I'll look into whether I can find a coarser variety than standard Arm & Hammer
    – pgarber
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 14:27

Food grade Diatomaceous earth is available. It is used for brushing teeth. For something a bit softer than silica, you might try a pumice powder. Looks like it'll take a bit of digging to find genuine food grade stuff.

  • I haven't heard of Diatomaceous earth, but it's pretty interesting stuff: 'fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton.' I think I'd prefer something a little less attention grabbing on a label - will look into pumice powder options. Thanks
    – pgarber
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 14:42

I would use poppy seeds, or some other seed of the same size. Many other things fit your criteria - for example the ground hulls of stone fruit kernels (not the soft nut within), but I would be afraid that they could be too abrasive.


If you could grind fennel or cardamom seeds to the right consistency to get the right abrasive action and "bite" (please excuse the pun!), this would also have dental benefits.

See: http://ijpsr.com/bft-article/effect-of-chewing-fennel-and-cardamom-seeds-on-dental-plaque-and-salivary-ph-a-randomized-controlled-trial/?view=fulltext


You might look into bamboo charcoal, or something like that.

I know it's sold as a tooth cleaner, so it should work in that regard. I also know it's edible (well, if food grade), there are recipes for bamboo charcoal bread, and other culinary uses. And the grittishness of the powder depends on the grinding, I know commercial powders are very smooth, homemade was quite a bit crunchier when I was trying a charcoal bread recipe - depends on what level of grit you're looking for (I imagine charcoal is soft enough that even coarse grit is not going to be too, too abrasive for one's teeth).

I don't know how the flavor will stack up in your gums, etc - in charcoal bread it's likely to be far more diluted than it will be in a gum, especially in high enough quantities to be an effective abrasive. But it might well be worth trying.

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