Most of the time it’s pretty easy to tell a good habit from a bad one. For example, walking is good for us; smoking is bad. There’s just no two ways about it. But some habits can be a bit more difficult to categorize. Chewing gum is a perfect example.
The habit of gum chewing has been around since ancient times. But before the advent of sugar-free gum, it became clear that this habit offered nothing good for your health. The sugar in gum feeds cavity-causing bacteria, which can harm your teeth. So gum that contains sugar should not be chewed. Period. But what about sugar-free gum? Like so many things, there are both pros and cons to this habit.
Lots of people like to chew sugar-free gum because it can temporarily freshen breath, relieve stress, and satisfy a hunger craving—without the drawbacks of an unhealthy between-meal snack. It also stimulates the production of saliva, which bathes your teeth in beneficial minerals and antibacterial agents. Studies have also shown that chewing gum containing the sweetener xylitol can actually prevent cavities. That’s all good. But gum chewing is a habit you can definitely overdo – especially if you are prone to jaw pain and headaches.
Chewing gum – like anything else you chew – works the jaw muscles, and constant, aggressive chewing can cause painful spasms of the type you’d experience in any overworked muscle group. That’s why, if you suffer from chronic jaw pain, sometimes called temporomandibular (TMJ) disorders or TMD, your dentist is likely to recommend you stop chewing gum and give your jaws a rest. The same is true if you often suffer from headaches. A 2014 study showed that gum chewing was linked to chronic migraines in young children and teens.
So should you chew gum or not? The best advice is to listen to your body. If you are experiencing TMD symptoms, which include jaw pain and difficulty opening or closing your jaws, go easy on the gum chewing. Any of the following should help relieve your discomfort:
- a warm compress held against your jaw,
- an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen,
- a temporary switch to a diet of softer foods.
It’s also important to come up with other ways of relieving stress. Try taking a walk, sipping a cup of herbal tea, or squeezing a stress ball. And if TMD symptoms persist, let your dentist know.
If you are not prone to jaw pain and headaches, feel free to continue your gum-chewing habit as long as it’s sugar-free gum you’re chewing. But don’t do it until it hurts!
To learn more call one of our :DP AtYourService Customer Care Representatives at 1-800-238-5163.