The Odd Ingredient That Keeps Chewing Gum From Dairy-Free Status

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It can be easy to forget that the category of things that contain dairy is larger than milk, cheese, and yogurt. Dairy can hide in many things, like breadcrumbs, for example, where all but the panko variety have trace amounts of milk. You can also add to that list anything that includes whey, which can be in everything from potato chips to margarine. So if you're vegan or just trying to avoid dairy, it's a good idea to double-check the ingredient list before you buy any food item.

However, you may never have thought to check the labels on packets of chewing gum — as some sticks may sneak in a little dairy, making them decidedly non-vegan. And if you didn't know the ingredient specifically, you may not have even recognized it as a milk product. Some brands of chewing gum contain Recaldent, also called casein. Its long name is CPP-ACP, or casein phosphopeptide-amorphous calcium phosphate, so it's understandably shortened on most product labels. And, like whey, since it's a protein derived from cow's milk, it is technically a dairy product.

Recaldent is a protein that comes from cow's milk

The intended purpose of the compound known as Recaldent was to strengthen teeth enamel by supplementing calcium and phosphate, which is why it can be found in toothpaste, according to Oral Health CRC. So what is it doing in chewing gum? 

Three separate studies found that chewing sugar-free gum with Recaldent was successful for replenishing minerals in teeth, which Jack W. Vincent, D.D.S. backed up and recommended consumers use. As Vincent told Dentistry IQ, "These findings showcase that chewing a sugar-free gum with CPP-ACP (Recaldent) should be considered an important addition to a preventative oral care program." Another study from the Journal of Conservative Dentistry even found that chewing gum with the protein can help reduce Streptococcus mutans, which are the bacteria that naturally form in your mouth.

Although significant, Recaldent is a relatively recent discovery. In the 1980s, scientists in Australia discovered they could isolate the protein and extract it from cow's milk, where it could be used in product formulas. Major gum brands, like Trident, sell packs with Recaldent in them so they can promote the dental health benefits of chewing their gum. For example, the description for Trident's Recaldent Chewing Gum explains that the ingredient is "absorbed right into the tooth, strengthening areas attacked by plaque acids." So if you're comfortable consuming dairy, buying gum with this protein may end up giving you stronger, healthier teeth in the long run.