The Pros and Cons of Chewing Gum

By Cole Purvis

From its bold flavors to the satisfying pop of a perfect bubble, gum has etched its way into the hearts of people of all ages. This long-time chewable delicacy has found shelf space in grocery stores and pharmacies for over a century. However, there is more than meets the eye with this tasty treat. Biting into a fresh piece of gum goes beyond just a fun and delicious pastime; there are a variety of health benefits and drawbacks we experience when we chew away on our next strip.

Biting Into the Benefits

Gum is a great supplement for bad breath or a sweet craving, but its positive effects are felt all throughout the body. Most notably, gum can help protect our mouths from decay and erosion, ease dry mouth, relieve nausea (especially with motion sickness or during pregnancy) and even treat acid reflux. These incredible remedies are the direct result of one thing: saliva. Chewing gum triggers an increased production of saliva in our mouths. Saliva that, according to the American Dental Association and National Institute of Health, carries away bacteria and acid that builds up on our teeth, rehydrates us and balances the acids in our esophagus.

The utility of gum does not stop there. It’s also a fun and easy way to burn a few calories. Research published by the Mayo Clinic found that we burn as many as 11 calories per hour as we chew gum. Further studies discovered that it can also help deter lethargy and promote alertness.

According to a study conducted at University College Cork, chewing gum can enhance attention, work performance and overall well-being. Under experimental conditions, chewing gum during the workday was associated with higher productivity and fewer cognitive problems. Maria Guerrieri- Maril, a local student at the University of Florida, echoed these sentiments, “I chew gum while studying and taking exams because I feel it helps me stay focused and help recall information when it’s showtime.”

Sticky Side Effects

Gum is not without its downsides, however. The most immediate negative consequences to chewing gum are correlated with its sugar content. Gum with higher amounts of sugar can all but counteract its benefits, eroding enamel and furthering tooth decay. Fortunately, a variety of sugar-free alternatives are available at vendors across the nation, as noted by the American Dental Association’s signature ADA seal of approval.

However, too much gum can also be a bad thing, as it can lead to unwanted pain or discomfort. “Excessive gum chewing can cause sore jaw muscles and lead to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain or headaches.

It can also cause digestive issues like bloating, gas and diarrhea depending on the ingredients and tricks your gut enzymes into preparing for food when there is nothing there, leading to a less efficient digestive system,” said Dr. Nicole Mullally, a Gainesville-based orthodontist and owner of Studio32 Orthodontics.

Moreover, while gum does have its contributions to oral health, it’s not a substitute for traditional hygiene routines. According to dental expert Karyn Kahn of the Cleveland Clinic, “the best way to keep your teeth healthy is to brush after each meal and floss daily.”

Chew Responsibly

Gum, like most things, is best enjoyed mindfully and in moderation. It comes in many shapes and forms, from minty breath remedies to sweet, sugary treats. That is why it is so important to always check for the all-important ADA seal of approval before biting into your next piece. That way, you can properly chew your gum while enjoying all the benefits it has to offer.

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