It’s not a stretch to say that gum chewing has been a favorite pastime for thousands of years. From the Mayans to the Ancient Greeks, cultures the world over have gnawed on natural tree resin to clean their teeth, freshen their breath, stave off hunger, and just pass the time.
Chewing gum today may be made with synthetic rubber and artificial flavors, but this ancient practice remains as popular as ever — and believe it or not, it offers many benefits for our health and wellbeing. That said, it doesn’t come without an equal number of potential disadvantages.
If you want dental health benefits from chewing gum, first make sure it’s sugar-free! Chewing sugar-free gum stimulates the production of saliva in your mouth, which freshens your breath by washing away harmful plaque, bacteria, and other debris that lead to tooth decay.
Most sugar-free gum on the market today also contains xylitol, which has anti-cariogenic (anti-cavity) properties.
Excessive gum chewing can strain the ligaments and muscles in your jaw over time, especially if you tend to chew on one side of your mouth more than the other. This can result in jaw muscle imbalance or even Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD), in which a person experiences sharp pain, popping, and tightness in their jaw when they are chewing.
The disorder can also cause soreness in the ears, teeth, face, neck, and shoulders.
Research shows that chewing gum is not only a mood booster but a brain booster as well. The act of gum chewing improves cognitive performance by enhancing alertness and sustained attention, which helps you concentrate on whatever task you have on hand.
It can even help with memory retention. Let that stick in your mind next time you’re preparing for a presentation or studying for a big exam. (Just remember to spit it out before you mount the stage!)
If you’re prone to migraines or tension headaches, your gum chewing habit might be making the problem worse. Some studies suggest that the repetitive orofacial movements involved in chewing that lead to jaw muscle strain or temporomandibular disorder (TMD) can exacerbate these painful conditions.
Hoping to lose weight or simply pick up healthier eating habits? Research has shown that chewing sugar-free gum after lunch can improve satiety by suppressing your appetite in the short term, reducing the likelihood of mindless munching between meals.
Another study suggests that gum chewing might also temporarily increase your body’s energy expenditure, helping you burn a few more calories.
If you suffer from symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you might want to skip that stick of gum. The sugar alcohols used to sweeten sugar-free gums, such as mannitol and sorbitol, act as laxatives may cause diarrhea when consumed in large quantities.
Furthermore, chewing gum increases the amount of air you swallow, which may lead to bloating, abdominal pain, and gassiness.
Kicking a smoking addiction is no small undertaking, and studies suggest chewing gum help can help stave off cravings during nicotine withdrawal. Gum that contains nicotine is a suitable stopgap and a healthier option for people who want to cut back on their smoking habit or quit altogether.
Hate to burst your bubble, but bubble gum is no better than candy when it comes to oral hygiene. Sugar-sweetened gum of any kind will coat your teeth and erode tooth enamel over time, leading to cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease.
Make sure you brush your teeth immediately afterward to minimize the damage to your dental health. Better yet, stick with sugar-free options.
When we’re anxious, the sudden surge of stress hormones tends to make our bodies tense up and we automatically clench our jaws. Chewing gum releases this tension, sending feedback to the brain that it’s okay to relax.
One study found that people who chewed gum over a period of seven to 19 days reported lower stress, anxiety, and depression levels than those who did not.
In addition to artificial sweeteners, many varieties of gum contain nanoparticles of titanium dioxide, a chemical additive that whitens and brightens foods and improves the texture. You'll also find it in mayonnaise, skim milk, bread, and many kinds of candy. Although this substance appears to be relatively safe in small quantities, recent research suggests that chronic exposure can affect your digestive system by making it harder for your intestinal cells to absorb certain nutrients.
This may lead to deficiencies that can affect your health. While titanium dioxide must be listed on ingredient labels, titanium dioxide nanoparticles are not. The best way to avoid ingesting this ingredient is to limit your exposure to processed foods — and yes, that includes gum.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.