For many years, I gnawed through about a pack of gum every day, until my dentist basically begged me to stop. Why? Those super-strong jaw muscles cracked a fresh dental implant, costing me serious time and cash. And I'm not the only person to face serious health changes from gum. Really, the shocking things that happen to your body when you chew gum just might cause you to see gumball machines in a totally new light. This tasty treat can do all sorts of stuff to your body.
To be clear, gum isn't all bad, and enjoying one stick of Juicy Fruit probably isn't going to put you in the hospital or anything. In fact, dentists and other healthcare workers might recommend gum-chewing for legit health reasons. Particularly for people who are replacing another habit such as smoking, gum-chewing can be super helpful.
But if you have certain conditions or sensitivities, then chewing gum on the reg might do some weird stuff to your body. With this in mind, it's good to know how gum might affect your jaws, teeth, and even digestive tract before any problems occur. Knowing the many ways gum can affect your body, both positive and negative, is a must for anyone who enjoys this sweet treat from time to time.
1. Increase Jaw Pain
Chewing gum can really work out those jaw muscles, and that isn't always a good thing. In fact, chewing gum is specifically not recommended for people with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), which often causes jaw pain and discomfort, according to the American Dental Association. In one extreme case, a woman with TMJ needed jaw surgery to repair the damage done by gum-chewing for hours each day, according to The Independent.
2. Reduce Anxiety
Gum can really help some people chill. In fact, chewing gum for two weeks appeared to reduce anxiety in healthy young adults, according to a study in Clinical Practice & Epidemiology in Mental Health. There's a reason I used to find gum so irresistible when studying for finals.
3. Tooth Decay
Check the ingredients in your favorite gum. Frequently chewing on sugared gum can wreck havoc on your teeth, potentially leading to tooth decay, gum disease, and cavities, according to Winning Smiles Adult Dentistry. Consider the sugar-free varieties instead.
4. Stomach Upset
Even sugar-free gum may not agree with every body. "Artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol and mannitol are often used in sugar-free gums. These artificial sweeteners are types of polyols (sugar alcohols) which commonly cause intolerances in large doses," said accredited practicing dietitian Melanie McGrice in Honey Coach. If you happen to have a sugar alcohol sensitivity, or just chew a ton of this gum, then an upset stomach may result.
5. Tooth Protection
Gum isn't all bad. In fact, chewing sugar-free gum after meals may help protect the teeth by washing away acids produced by foods, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). In moderation, gum-chewing can be a healthy activity, particularly if you're away from a toothbrush for a bit.
6. Saliva Stimulation
Gum isn't exactly a food or a drink, but chewing on it can still activate the digestive tract. In fact, chewing gum can stimulate the production of saliva and volume of stomach liquids, according to Health Day. This is why you may be asked to refrain from chewing gum before surgery.
OK, this is kind of weird. But chewing gum makes you swallow air, which can then give you gas, according to Live Science. So if you're gearing up for a work event or a hot date, consider skipping the gum.
This idea is still being studied. But there is a potential connection between gum-chewing and tension or migraine headaches, according to a 2015 study in CNS & Neurological Disorders - Drug Targets. So if you're prone to these painful headaches, consider cutting back your gum consumption.
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