Gum may actually support and promote good oral health. According to a recent study published in the journal PLOS One, chewing gum for up to 10 minutes can remove as much as 10 percent of the bacteria from your saliva.

In addition to trapping bacteria, gum chewing dramatically increases saliva flow, which neutralizes acids, efficiently reduces the presence of debris, and carries disease-fighting elements throughout your mouth.

Sugar-sweetened gum can increase your chances of developing a cavity, so look for sugar-free options that contain non-cavity causing sweeteners, like Xylitol.

It’s important to note—gum may be equally as effective as floss, but the two activities target bacteria in very different places. The American Dental Association warns that gum chewing is not a substitution for good oral care practices. You should still brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and remove plaque from between teeth once a day with dental floss or an oral irrigator.

But, on those rare occasions (wink, wink) when you find yourself separated from your toothbrush and floss, stay calm and grab some sugar-free chewing gum to get you by until you return home. You’ll be helping—not harming—your mouth.