Chewing gum is a habit that some people enjoy, but others find disgusting. Periodically, there are people who will tell you that you should either start the habit or stop it because of different benefits. Here are a few of the most common things people will tell you about chewing gum, and the truth of each.
Cavity Prevention: True
One of the most commonly promoted benefits of chewing gum is that sugar-free chewing gum can help prevent tooth decay. This is true. Chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after eating or drinking can significantly reduce your risk of cavities.
It does this in two ways. First, gum acts like a clay bar you use when cleaning a fancy car: it sticks to all the small particles, removing them from your teeth. Second, the chewing stimulates production of saliva, which is your natural bacteria fighter in your mouth.
Weight Loss: False
Many people think that chewing gum will help them avoid eating too much. They reason that if they put a stick of sugar-free gum in their mouth instead of eating a snack, they will reduce their energy intake. It seems logical, but it turns out it’s probably not true. A 2013 study showed that people who chewed gum ate just as many calories. And it was worse because people who chewed gum were less likely to eat healthy foods like fruits.
Aggravates TMJ: True
A reason why people tell you to quit chewing gum is that it can worsen your TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder), resulting in jaw pain and headaches. Turns out this is true. Chewing gum can overwork your jaw, resulting in increased pain intensity and frequency as well as more headaches.
We don’t currently have any evidence that chewing gum causes TMJ.
On the whole, the balance of whether chewing gum is good or bad depends on whether you have TMJ or not. If you don’t have TMJ, it’s probably a reasonable habit. If you do have TMJ, it’s something you should avoid.