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Health Issues From Chewing Gum

By Megan Churchwell ; Updated June 13, 2017

Chewing gum can cause many health issues, such as muscle fatigue and headaches. The ingredients in gum, including sugar, sugar substitutes, and gum base, may be carcinogens and have been linked to a variety of negative health effects, including cancer and diabetes. Chewing gum can also damage dental fillings or braces, and swallowed gum may require medical attention.

Identification

One of the most common health issues related to chewing gum is muscle fatigue due to overuse of the jaw muscles. This is known to lead to chronic headaches. The action of chewing gum can also cause unnecessary wear on the cartilage in the jaw joint. Frequent gum chewers may be more likely to develop problems in the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, although a direct relationship between gum chewing and TMJ problems has not been established.

In addition to the action of chewing gum, negative health effects may also be caused by the ingredients in the gum. Increased focus on the ingredients contained in the average piece of chewing gum reveals that most contain some type of sweetener, either sugar or a sugar substitute such as aspartame. Additionally, the gum base may contain vinyl acetate, a suspected carcinogen. This product may be hidden in the ingredient list as “gum base,” making it difficult to avoid gum containing it.

Significance

Some gum ingredients are suspected to be carcinogens or have been linked to various health conditions. Sugar can cause cavities and lead to health issues such as diabetes, while aspartame, a popular artificial sweetener, has been linked to cancer, diabetes, and neurological disorders. Chewing gum containing such ingredients can have dangerous and long-lasting health effects. In addition, frequent gum chewers may experience a chronic low-level headache long after removing the gum from their mouth.

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Considerations

Because so many of the health issues of chewing gum are related to the ingredients used in the gum, choose your brand of chewing gum cautiously. Regardless of the type of gum you chew, always brush your teeth or rinse with water after chewing to reduce the potential ill effects of chewing gum ingredients.

Warning

If you have braces or dental fillings, especially ones containing mercury, you should avoid chewing gum. Those with amalgam fillings should be especially cautious, as the constant action of gum chewing can break down the amalgam, resulting in the release of toxic mercury vapor. Gum has also been known to pull the brackets of orthodontia off of the teeth, requiring the attention of an orthodontist.

Misconceptions

As a child, you may have been told that swallowed gum would remain in your stomach forever, never to be digested. Although most swallowed gum will actually pass through your system relatively quickly, those who swallow large quantities of gum may require medical attention.

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