Whether you chew gum to settle your nerves or to freshen your breath, gum chewing has both a positive and negative effect on your overall dental health. The type of gum chewed plays a role into whether or not it is harmful for your teeth. Choosing a gum containing sugar may actually increase chances of developing a cavity as opposed to sugar-free gum. Chewing sugarless gum for about 20 minutes can help prevent tooth decay and increases the flow of saliva, which washes away food and provides disease-fighting substances throughout the mouth. Gum chewing may also reduce plaque acids, remineralize tooth enamel, reduce cavities and prevent gingivitis.
Another benefit chewing gum has on one’s health is the ability to recall information. According to psychologists, chewing gum can help improve memory. By examining the effects of gum chewing during an exam, they found those who chewed gum had a better score than those who did not due to higher activity in the area of our brain important for memory retention. Chewing gum also helps to reduce stress levels. Psychologists believe chewing gum reduces tension, helps to release nervous energy, and provides an outlet in releasing frustration. The rhythmic motions of chewing gum has a stress-reducing effect because it provides a satisfying feeling.
Unfortunately all good things come with harmful side effects. Frequent gum chewing has shown to trigger headaches. Chewing gum can cause jaw muscles to strain, leading to temporomandibular joint problems. When the jaw meets the skull, headaches occur, and any time a set of muscles are overused, it can lead to muscle related pain, headaches, earaches and toothaches over time. Another problem gum chewers may face is the intake of excess air which may lead to irritable bowel syndrome. Gum chewing causes the body to signal to the brain that food is about to enter the body, causing false messages to your intestines. Enzymes and acids activated while chewing gum are released and can lead to bloating and overproduction of stomach acid.
Although many specialists say gum (more specifically sugar free gum) is acceptable to aid in tooth health, other specialists feel gum chewing is not beneficial. A number of specialists suggest that even sugar-free gum aids in tooth decay. The reasoning behind this is that sugar-free gum contains acidic flavorings and may lead to dental erosion. Unlike cavities, dental erosion is a process that dissolves your teeth over time.
Staying on top of your oral health would reduce the likelihood of obtaining any of these health related problems. Are you a frequent gum chewer? Call the office of Dr. Bonnie Helfner and schedule an appointment to discuss the effects gum has on your teeth.