Is chewing gum bad for you? [Pros and Cons]

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Is chewing gum bad for you? [Pros and Cons]

Chewing gum is not always bad for you. However, constant chewing may lead to jaw problems, like TMJ disorder. Also, the sugar content in chewing gum can contribute to tooth decay and even gum disease.

What does chewing gum do to your body? For some people, chewing gum can improve focus, reduce stress, and eliminate bad breath. However, it may also contribute to oral health issues and jaw pain.

Chewing xylitol gum occasionally is good for your oral health. Xylitol actually tastes sweet without feeding the harmful bacteria in your oral microbiome.

Your oral health affects your whole body health — and the other way around. Read more to figure out if chewing gum is a net positive or net negative for your unique situation.

Purported Health Benefits of Chewing Gum

It may surprise you to hear a dentist admit there may be health benefits of chewing gum. Keep scrolling to read those benefits, some of which are backed by scientific data.

Is it okay to chew gum every day? Chewing gum every day may lead to jaw pain (TMJ). Chewing sugary gum contributes to cavities and an imbalanced oral microbiome. However, for some individuals, chewing gum every day can increase focus and decrease stress.

Improving Cognitive Functions

Chewing gum may boost your brain function. These improvements include mood, alertness, and job performance.

This 2015 scientific review concluded, “Chewing gum was associated with enhanced productivity and reduced cognitive errors at work”.

Chewing gum seems to improve your memory, as well as your sustained attention span. It’s a little shocking how much evidence there is that gum empirically improves your cognitive functions.

Reducing Stress

Chewing gum may reduce your stress levels.

Students who chew gum reported less stress, and they tend not to get behind on their schoolwork, according to a 2012 study published in Appetite.

Another study encourages students to chew gum before tests to “overcome exam stress” and “enhance exam success”.

Based on the current scientific evidence, chewing gum is an inexpensive, safe, effective way to relieve stress.

Improving the Health of Your Teeth

The primary way that sugar-free gum may improve the health of your teeth is that it promotes saliva production.

The more you chew, the more saliva your mouth creates. Saliva is great for your dental health because it helps get rid of food particles in between your teeth.

Saliva flow also helps neutralize the acids from plaque buildup on your teeth.

Chewing sugar-free gum, particularly xylitol gum, after meals helps to get pesky food particles out from between your teeth. Don’t brush your teeth immediately after a meal though, because you might rub dietary acids into your teeth and hurt your tooth enamel.

Now that we know saliva is great, you’ll have guessed that dry mouth is horrible for your oral health and the smell of your breath. I don’t recommend alcohol-based mouthwashes because they dry out your oral cavity and promote harmful bacteria growth.

Eliminating Bad Breath and Dry Mouth

Chewing gum can eliminate bad breath by increasing saliva, preventing dry mouth, and masking any remaining smell with pleasant flavors.

Increased saliva reduces bad breath-causing bacteria.

Dry mouth promotes bad breath-causing bacteria.

Pleasant flavors like mint or cinnamon can temporarily mask bad breath.

However, I always recommend addressing the root cause of your condition, not just masking the symptoms. The most common cause of bad breath is poor oral hygiene.

Settling an Upset Stomach

Chewing gum may actually settle your upset stomach, especially if the gum contains ginger or mint, which can both calm the stomach.

For some individuals, gum might cause abdominal distress, but for others, it can soothe the digestive system — particularly after surgery or medical treatment.

Gum chewing may also help lower the acid in your esophagus, easing heartburn and acid reflux.

Maintaining Weight

Chewing gum might help you maintain your weight. It can reduce cravings, especially around snack time, and it can burn a few extra calories.

Gum chewers have reported reduced cravings at home, at work, and at school. Snack intake goes down when chewing gum, and hunger is suppressed.

Although not many, chewing gum burns calories.

Sugar-free gum contains zero or very few calories. The act of chewing burns a few calories — roughly 3% of our daily calorie burning. Chewing sugar-free gum might burn an extra 11 calories per hour, but that isn’t enough to make a difference in your weight.

Potential Negative Effects From Frequent Gum Chewing

Frequent gum chewing can have negative effects on your oral health, jaw muscle pain, and even your digestive system. Check out the science behind each negative effect.

Tooth Decay

If you’re chewing gum which contains sugar (or even corn syrup), that sugar feeds the harmful bacteria on your teeth. The bacteria then secrete acids which lead to tooth decay and dental cavities (i.e. caries).

Consider sugar-free gum, especially xylitol gum. Gums sweetened with sugar alcohols (such as sorbitol, mannitol, or xylitol) should not be cariogenic — meaning, causes dental caries. Sugar alcohols are sweet, but your digestive system metabolizes them slowly, so they contain fewer calories than sugar.

Xylitol, in particular, has been shown to improve your dental health. Don’t chew sugary gum. Chew xylitol gum!

Warning: Don’t let your dog consume xylitol products. Their digestive systems think xylitol is sugar, thus spiking their blood insulin levels, which can be deadly.

Artificial sweeteners like aspartame don’t seem to contribute to tooth decay, but aspartame may have other side effects on certain individuals’ health.

Ultimately, sugar is not the only thing that leads to tooth decay. It’s wise to eat a balanced, healthy diet for your systemic health.

Disorders of the Jaw

Constant chewing of anything, including gum, can lead to sore jaw muscles, headaches, and even TMJ disorder. Chewing gum overworks the temporomandibular joint, causing joint pain, soreness, discomfort, and even chronic headaches.

Too much chewing can lead to TMJ disorder. Some individuals are more sensitive to jaw soreness than others.

Digestive Issues

For some, chewing gum can help with digestive issues. More often, though, gum chewing contributes to gut problems.

Chewing gum may lead you to swallow air pockets, which could cause bloating, abdominal pain, and IBS.

If you swallow your chewing gum, you’re fine. Your body can’t digest it, but it doesn’t stay in your body for seven years. In rare cases, swallowing gum may simply cause IBS symptoms.

Furthermore, if you chew sugar-free gum, certain sugar substitutes increase the risk of digestive issues. For instance, sorbitol can cause abdominal cramps, bloating, diarrhea, and flatulence.

Individuals with Mercury Fillings — Beware

If you have mercury amalgam fillings in your teeth, chewing gum may accelerate the release of mercury from the filling into your mouth and bloodstream.

As a holistic dentist, I would never recommend mercury fillings (i.e. amalgam or silver fillings). If you already have mercury fillings, there are several things to consider when determining whether you should remove them. Having the fillings taken out would release mercury vapors into your body which must be weighed against the amount of mercury released in activities such as brushing your teeth, grinding your teeth at night, or gum chewing.

Establish Healthy Gum Chewing Habits

Here are the best tips on establishing healthy gum chewing habits:

  • Stick to sugar-free gum. Sugary gum contributes to tooth decay (cavities). Even the American Dental Association (ADA) agrees with this basic fact.
  • Opt for a xylitol gum. Limit as many sweeteners, as possible.
  • Spread out your chewing. Some experts say 15 minutes is the maximum you should chew for. So as not to exceed 15 minutes, take a couple hours break between pieces of gum.
  • Avoid chewing gum too much. As soon as you feel any soreness, stop chewing right away; it will only get worse.
  • Check the other ingredients. Sugar, aspartame, BHT, titanium dioxide, and corn syrup are all not good for you. It’s difficult to know what “gum base”, “artificial flavoring”, “preservatives”, and “natural flavors” actually mean, so they are best avoided.
  • Don’t skip oral hygiene. You shouldn’t skip brushing your teeth with a high-quality toothpaste, flossing, or healthy eating just because you’re chewing gum.

For Beyond the Surface Care, Choose Rejuvenation Dentistry

Rejuvenation Dentistry is a biological dental practice. We believe in identifying and treating the root cause of your oral health problems. We know that your whole body health affects your mouth, and vice versa.

For the safest, most effective ways to improve your overall wellness, schedule an appointment with Rejuvenation Dentistry. We have decades of experience restoring teeth and oral health using non-invasive treatments that are as natural as possible.

Sources

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  5. Yaman‐Sözbir, Ş., Ayaz‐Alkaya, S., & Bayrak‐Kahraman, B. (2019). Effect of chewing gum on stress, anxiety, depression, self‐focused attention, and academic success: A randomized controlled study. Stress and Health, 35(4), 441-446. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31125164/
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