The Good, The Bad, & The Gummy:

You see it everywhere you go; in the checkout line at the store, on your friend’s countertops or coffee table, in the purse of the cute girl in your class.  Gum is a go to for so many people, whether their teeth’s integrity is on their mind or not.  Some people are hungry and want to use the flavor as something to hold them over, others feel that their breath could use some back up.  Regardless of what the reason is, you have probably reached for a stick of gum once or twice in your lifetime or maybe just this week.  However it is important to know know you’re sticking yourself into when you unwrap that little treat.

Often times gum makers will promote their product with benefits that won’t compromise the health of your teeth.  The most common phrase used in gum advertisements is ‘sugar free’.  Although this implies that there is no sugar used in the gum that does not relinquish your teeth from the fear of falling victim to the harm of the gum’s chemical make up.  This is because artificial sweeteners can often times be just as big a hazard to the enamel and strength of your teeth.  Their composition will stick in the crevices of your teeth as they get wedged in there during chewing.  Most of the false ‘sweetener’, otherwise known as sugar, comes in the immense flavor that the products pride themselves off.  Once attached to your teeth, they will begin to break down your enamel and support the growth of bacteria in your teeth and gums.

Chewing gum definitely has some benefits, seeing as it is a great way to stimulate salivation which can be helpful when thirsty or tired.  This is because the sweetness accompanied by the movement of your jaw and tongue to accommodate the gum will call for a reaction from the six salivary glands located in your mouth.  Although it can be helpful, too much will cause more harm than good.  In fact, excessive gum chewing has been known to overwork the glands that produce calculated amounts of saliva in your mouth, thus running them ragged and wasting energy.  As a result, your mouth will begin to produce less than average amounts of saliva and could lead to an irritating case of xerostomia.  This condition results in excessive dry mouth and raw tongue alongside increased sores.  This is because it deprives your mouth the appropriate saliva it needs to function smoothly because you have embellished in too much recreational candy consumption.

Another commonly overlooked side effect of too many pieces of gum is the wear and tear that the chewing has on your jaw muscles.  The excessive repetition of the jaw muscles that accompanies chewing gum for hours on end will result in a number of complications to your mouth.  Although often times your jaw will just seem sore and cause you to want to stop chewing gum, some damage is irreversible.  TMJ can occur which causes pain when opening or moving the jaw and will often times create a popping noise whenever the jaw tendons are used to chew anything.  Overworking your mouths muscles, including your tongue, by chewing gum for an extended period of time can be overkill and not worth the gain you get from having fresh breath.

It is important to also remember that while some gome is advertised as good for your teeth it does not replace the roll of brushing and flossing.   While there may be some chemicals found in these gums that might have a small benefit for your teeth, such as whitener or maybe a bacteria killer, they almost always do damage to the strengthened roots of your teeth as well as the appearance of your gums.  Rubbing and sticking gum to your gums and teeth then pulling them off, an action that occurs with every chew of a stick of gum, your teeth and gums can become weaker and weaker over time.  This is how cavities begin to develop, because the surface of teeth become compromised.  It is also common that excessive chewing can loosen the roots that hold teeth in place in your mouth.  While you think the gum could be protecting your smile, too much of it could cause your teeth to fall out and leave no smile left to defend.

Although chewing gum and encountering candy is basically inevitable in your daily life, it is important to always consider the consequences that excessive things can have.  Gum is a great and simple little snack you can take on the go and definitely can give your breath a quick once-over, however just like everything else too much use of it can have consequences.  Make sure to take your teeth and smile into account when you reach for your next stick of gum to chew.

Zach C. writes for The Lifetime Smiles in Austin, Texas. Zach enjoys chewing gum.