The world market for chewing gum is estimated to be 560,000 tons per year, representing approximately US $5 billion. Some 374 billion pieces of chewing gum are sold worldwide every year, representing 187 billion hours of gum-chewing if each piece of gum is chewed for 30 minutes. Chewing gum can thus be expected to have an influence on oral health. The labeling of sugar-substituted chewing gum as "safe for teeth" or "tooth-friendly" has been proven beneficial to the informed consumer. Such claims are allowed for products having been shown in vivo not to depress plaque pH below 5.7, neither during nor for 30 minutes after the consumption. However, various chewing gum manufacturers have recently begun to make distinct health promotion claims, suggesting, e.g., reparative action or substitution for mechanical hygiene. The aim of this critical review--covering the effects of the physical properties of chewing gum and those of different ingredients both of conventional and of functional chewing gum--is to provide a set of guidelines for the interpretation of such claims and to assist oral health care professionals in counseling patients.