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Oman health: More than you can chew.

by Dr Harshwardhan Jadia Chewing gum causes you to swallow excess air, which can contribute to abdominal pain and bloating.

Pain aggravating factor for temporomandibular joint pain and disorders.

People often chew gum as a snack simply because they like the flavour or the distraction it provides. Some use it for stress relief or even as a tool for reducing food cravings. Teenagers are known for gum chewing and popping. If your child is a frequent gum chewer and suffers from headaches, you should know that a link has recently been established. One study involved 30 daily gum chewers between the ages of 6 and 19 years. Each suffered from chronic migraine or tension headaches. After quitting gum chewing for one month, 19 of them had their headaches go away completely while another seven had a reduction in headache frequency and severity. Twenty-six of the children then started chewing gum again, only to have, their headaches return

within days.

There are several reasons why people chew gum, along with alternative options to help you kick your habit.

1. For stress relief: There are several many other ways for relieving stress like morning walk, breathing exercise, meditation, yoga, developing your hobbies, making good friends and your families where you can spend some quality time, and many more. For any severe problem you can consult a counsellor or specialist psychologist who can help you for satisfactory options for better life.

2. To freshen your breath: Carry a toothbrush and toothpaste with you so you can brush your teeth even when you're on the go. A natural breath spray also works well for this purpose.

3. To overcome food cravings: Food craving can be avoided by adding good protein source in each meal.

Secondly food craving can be avoided by long hour of hunger and starvation basically by taking certain food in between two major meals like nuts (10-15), serving of fruits, vegetable salad, soup, cheese cubes, cup of laban, milk tea, coffee, and green tea. If nothing is available a glass of water can also help in settling down the craving.

4. For the flavour: If you're chewing gum because you're hooked on the flavour, for healthier flavourful options, try sipping on a glass of water infused with fresh mint leaves, cinnamon, or citrus fruit or there are many flavoured mouthwash available which can help you to keep your mouth fresh with simple mouthwash gargle.

Side effects of chewing gum

Before you reach for another stick of gum, consider these rather disturbing side effects that gum chewing can cause.

1. Chewing gum may increase your junk-food intake:

Many people chew on a stick of gum to reduce food cravings and, theoretically, help them avoid eating unhealthy foods. However, many research shows that people who chewed gum were less likely to eat fruit and instead were more motivated to eat junk food like potato chips and candy. This is likely because the minty flavour in the gum makes fruits and vegetables taste bitter.

2. It may trigger TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder) in your jaw:

Chewing gum can cause jaw muscle imbalance (if you chew on one side more than the other) it can cause temporomandibular joint disorder in your jaw, which can be a painful chronic condition. Anytime you overuse a certain set of muscles, it can lead to contracted muscles and related pain, including headaches, earaches, and toothaches over time. If not regulated, this stress can lead to strong facial pain or great discomfort in the back of the neck.

3. Masseter (facial) muscle problems:

Frequent chewing of gum can lead to masseter muscle problems that are result of your constant grinding of teeth at night. If you are suffering from TMJ dysfunction, you must consider totally abandoning gums.

4. Irregular development of facial muscles:

As many are aware, when working any muscle, whether your biceps or your calves, they will tend to grow and shape themselves accordingly. This is no different with your jaw muscles, specifically the Masseter which is the major contributor muscle for chewing. A chronic gum-chewer's jaw line can become larger and aesthetically unpleasing through time. Although some believe extensive use of the jaw can burn calories and make the face look thinner, this is not true. The muscles being used makes the face to have a larger and more square jaw line.

5. Tooth decay:

Sugared gums with heavy use cause tooth decay, gum disease, and cavities. This happens because sugar coats the teeth, and can slowly cause damaging of tooth enamel.

6. Gastrointestinal problems:

Chewing gum causes you to swallow excess air, which can contribute to abdominal pain and bloating seen with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). When you chew gum you send your body physical signals that food is about to enter your body. The enzymes and acids that are activated when you chew gum are therefore released, but without the food they're intended to digest. This can cause bloating, an over production of stomach acid, and can compromise your ability to produce sufficient digestive secretions when you actually do eat food. Some people may also have adverse gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhoea, from the artificial sweeteners that are commonly found in chewing gum.

7. Artificial sweetener allergies:

Almost all popular sugar brands use artificial sweeteners to make their products longer lasting, sweeter or to achieve special kind of taste. Some of those artificial sweeteners can cause allergic reaction, especially Aspartame and Sorbitol. Others can cause irritation or headaches.

8. Tooth damage -- even from sugar-free gum:

If your chewing gum contains sugar, you're essentially "bathing" your teeth in sugar while you chew away. This can contribute to tooth decay. Even if you chew sugar-free gum, there are still risks to your teeth because sugar-free gum often contains acidic flavourings and preservatives that may lead to dental erosion, even if it contains cavity-fighting xylitol. Unlike cavities, dental erosion is a process of incremental decalcification, which, over time, literally dissolves your teeth.

9. Release mercury from your fillings:

If you have mercury fillings, you should know that chewing gum may cause this known neurotoxin to release from the fillings into your body. Every time you chew, mercury vapour is released and quickly finds its way into your bloodstream, where it causes oxidative processes in your tissues.

10. Sheep byproducts:

Chewing gum often contains lanolin, a waxy substance that's derived from sheep wool, to help it stay soft. While not necessarily dangerous to your health, chewing on lanolin is not exactly appetising.

Remember that for many people, the initial cause of TMJ disorders is unknown. For instance, stress, poor diet, lack of sleep, and bad posture are all factors that can make TMJ symptoms worse. Similarly constant long term usage of chewing gum can be a aggravating factor for temporomandibular joint pain and facial neuromusculature pain and disorders.-lifestyle@timesofoman.com

Dr Harshwardhan Jadia is B.D.S, M.D.S (Oral , Maxillofacial & Implant Surgeon) at Apollo Hospital Muscat

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Date:Oct 8, 2016
Words:1174
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