Chewing gum is a product which has existed, in some form, throughout much of modern human history. The first chewing gums are believed to have been created by using birch bark tar more than 6,000 years ago. The Aztecs and Mayans were both known to use chicle, which is another natural tree gum. The Ancient Greeks chewed mastic gum, which was made from mastic tree resin.
Modern chewing gum, however, was developed in the United States in the middle of the 19th century. Settlers in New England observed local tribes chewing resin that was made from sap harvested from the local spruce trees. Many copied the practice. In 1848, the first commercialized chewing gum product was sold.
The first flavored chewing gums were created in the 1960s. Chicle came to the U.S. around the same time, with many of the early chewing gum companies, such as Wrigley’s, being able to dominate the market. Several are still producing chewing gum products today.
Here are the pros and cons of chewing gum to think about.
List of the Pros of Chewing Gum
1. It can help with bad breath issues.
Chewing gum helps to create extra saliva within the mouth. The extra saliva works to reduce the number of bacteria which are present in the mouth. That is why someone chewing gum often seems to have sweeter breath than someone who isn’t chewing gum. It isn’t just the flavor profile or the sugar in the gum that you’re smelling. With the reduced bacteria, chewing gum literally changes the composition of a person’s breath.
2. It can help with heartburn issues.
The extra saliva produced by chewing gum has another benefit as well. Once swallowed, the saliva works to balance out stomach acid levels. It also helps to push acid back into the stomach when it begins to creep out, thus preventing heartburn from happening. If someone chews gum for about 30 minutes, then up to 3 hours of heartburn relief can be experienced. Try chewing a sugar-free gum for the best results.
3. It can help with weight loss.
Boredom is one of the leading causes of obesity. When people get bored, they solve their mindlessness by chewing on something. The act of chewing works as a comfort mechanism. The act of chewing gum can replicate the chewing action that eating food requires, which may reduce the urge to snack or eat in unhealthy proportions for some people. Chewing gum is also known to help with cravings and reduce a person’s appetite.
4. It might help fight tooth decay.
One type of sugarless gum is called Xylitol. Many dentists offer lollipops, chewing gum, and hard candies that are made with this sweetener. That is because Xylitol is known to slow the growth of a specific bacteria in the mouth that is a direct cause of cavities. When you chew gum which contains Xylitol, the bacteria are prevented from sticking to the enamel on your teeth. If the gum contains calcium lactate, then the mineral health of your teeth may receive a secondary boost as well.
5. It is very affordable.
The average price for a standard package of chewing gum is about $1. Some chewing gums are priced as low as $0.05 per piece. That makes it a very affordable way to take advantage of the many benefits this product provides. In the United States, the average person chews about 170 sticks of gum per year, which means less than $10 is spent, per person, on this potentially beneficial product. Even health-specific gums, such as dairy-free, gluten-free, or sugar-free, fit into this pricing category.
6. It can increase personal productivity.
Chewing gum is an activity that keeps your mind focused on the task which must be completed. The act of chewing reduces the distractions of non-productive activities, especially for students. It provides help with information retention, can improve short-term memory and recall, and may even reduce the amount of stress or anxiety which some students feel. Chewing sugar-free gum may even help to stimulate an increased level of brain activity.
7. It is fun.
Chewing gum offers some health benefits, none of which may be as important as the amount of fun it generates. People often feel good when they chew gum. Blowing bubbles with the gum can be entertaining. Considering it only costs a nickel, on average, to experience these benefits, chewing gum is one of the most valuable forms of personal entertainment we have available to us today.
List of the Cons of Chewing Gum
1. It can lead to tooth decay.
Many chewing gums contain high levels of sugar. Repetitively chewing sugared gum encourages bacterial growth in and around the teeth and gums, even though the extra saliva is working to reduce bacteria numbers. Over time, the extra sugar exposure to the teeth can lead to premature tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health issues. For those with weak or failing teeth, chewing gum may even cause direct tooth damage.
2. It may cause some people to bite their tongue.
Just about everyone bites their tongue at some point. It can be a very painful experience. Repetitive tongue biting, however, can lead to changes in the tissues of the tongue itself. Any bite will cause tissue damage. Repetitive damage can create pigmentation issues and keratinization. Many people who repetitively bite their tongue while chewing gum see white tissues appear, especially on the sides of their tongue.
3. It may cause bloating.
Chewing gum is also known to cause bloating issues in some individuals. This happens because as you are chewing the gum, you are swallowing more than your saliva. You are also swallowing air. That air hits your digestive tract and begins to interact with the bacteria found there. If enough air is swallowed, then stomach distension may occur, and it can even become painful. For those who chew a lot of gum during the day, try eating a high-fiber snack or sucking on a piece of candy to limit the amount of air that is swallowed.
4. It may cause higher levels of sugar alcohol.
Many chewing gums come with artificial sweeteners as a way to offset the direct sugar exposure and tooth decay risks that a sugared gum would offer. Chewing too many sugar-free foods is also associated with stomach discomfort. For the average person, consuming just 2-3 artificially-sweetened products, or chewing 2-3 servings of a sugar-free gum, can be enough to trigger bothersome symptoms.
5. It can irritate certain health conditions.
The most common irritation triggered by chewing gum is Temporo Mandibular Joint Syndrome, or TMJ. This condition creates painful movements and popping within the jaw when it is moved. The damage is often caused by repetitive movements of the jaw, such as grinding the teeth at night. For someone with a regular habit of chewing gum every day, enough damage could occur to cause TMJ. For those with this condition, chewing gum will further irritate the jaw.
6. It could loosen your dental work.
Chewing gum becomes sticky after being chewed for some time. That stickiness can help to remove some bacteria from around the teeth and gum line. It can also make a negative impact on any dental work you may have had done. Chewing gum is known to loosen fillings, crowns, and bridges. Depending upon the health of the tooth and gums, it may even remove some crowns and fillings. If you’re unsure about the state of your oral health, it may be wise to discuss your desire to chew gum with your dentist to get their opinion on the matter.
7. It creates high levels of litter.
Up to 90% of chewing gum is not disposed of properly after it has been chewed. Outside of cigarette butts, chewing gum is the second-most common form of litter found in the world today. Even the collection and disposal of gum packaging is an expensive experience, with annual costs of more than $2 million in the United States. Modern chewing gum does not biodegrade either as it is made from synthetic plastics. In total, we generate 250,000 tons of waste each year because of our chewing gum habit.
8. It can be disruptive to the social environment.
One of the biggest concerns with chewing gum is that it can be a disruptive habit. Students or co-workers who pass around a package of gum are just as distracted in that activity compared to other distractions in their environment. The various noises of chewing gum which are created also cause noise pollution that can be distracting for some students.
The pros and cons of chewing gum show us that it can be a healthy habit. Like any habit, it must be enjoyed in moderation to reduce the risk of experiencing bothersome signs and symptoms. Humans have been chewing gum for thousands of years. Although it is not a replacement for brushing your teeth, flossing, and other general care habits, chewing gum can help you create a happier and healthier mouth.