Although often taken for granted, chewing gum ranks among the world's most popular substances. The average American consumes about 182 sticks per year, giving little heed to the potential impact on their health. However, there are well-documented reasons to avoid making a long-term habit of chewing any gum--including its effect on the jaw and its chemical composition, to name only two variables. A look at the record suggests that cavities are only part of the potential health problems.
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From the standpoint of many medical professionals, like Dr. Ben Kim, chewing gum goes against how the jaw operates. According to Kim, chewing gum can wear down the cartilage designed to act like a shock absorber for the jaw joints--leading to lasting pain and damage. Additionally, Kim warns on his advice website, drbenkim.com, that unnecessary chewing can lead to chronic tightness in two of the eight facial muscles that are used to chew. Those actions can put unnecessary pressure on the nerves that supply the temples, resulting in chronic headaches.
Sugar Versus Sugarless Gum
Chewing gum's effect on teeth are well-established, since most flavours contain sugars that wear down enamel, making users more prone to cavities. Switching to sugarless gum stimulates saliva production, which "washes" the teeth, thus neutralising acids that attack tooth enamel, according to "The Skinny Chef," Jennifer Iserloh. However, many gum flavours include artificial sweeteners like aspartame--a substance linked to cancer, diabetes, neurological disorders and birth defects, Kim notes.
Effect on Metabolism
Another frequently overlooked effect is how chewing gum affects the body's metabolic processes. As Kim details, there are six salivary glands located throughout the mouth, which are designed to release saliva when you chew any kind of food substance. Continuously prodding the mouth to produce saliva can waste valuable metabolic resources that your body could dedicate to other activities.
Other Side Effects
Contrary to folklore, chewing gum does not take years to pass through the system--it moves through the body like any other piece of roughage, such as popcorn, according to the advice site SixWise.com. Other reported side effects from chronic chewing include flatulence, mouth ulcers--from cinnamon flavouring--as well as high blood pressure and lower potassium levels, due to liquorice flavouring.
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