As children in Junior School, we’ve all heard what the teachers thought of chewing gum. They told us that...
“A gum chewing kid and a cud chewing cow,
Are somewhat alike, but different somehow,
Just what is the difference, I think I know now,
’Tis the thoughtful look on the face of the cow!”
This was always followed by a disapproving “do you know what this will do to your teeth?” So, we wondered. What does chewing gum do for the teeth? Is it terrible? Does it give us cavities and all kinds of teeth and gum disorders? Or does it prevent cavities like the advertisements tell us? And stop bad breath as well? We found some interesting answers.
“We all eat with our back teeth and there are certain particles in teeth which can be easily removed by chewing gum on daily basis,” says Jyoti Arora, Head Dietician at Artemis. All in all it can be called as a great salvage for after-office lunch hours, she added.
Other than that, chewing gum can stimulate the production of saliva in your mouth. And this is good because saliva is a natural buffering agent which helps wash the teeth and neutralise some of the acid produced by bacteria. This acid is what corrodes the enamel of the teeth and leads to cavities. But a lot of chewing gums contain varying quantities of sugar in them. Such chewing gums can be harmful for teeth if they are chewed too often or are removed from the mouth too soon.
Research shows that sugar-containing chewing gums must be chewed for at least 20 minutes to minimise the damage that they can do to teeth. In 20 minutes, the sugar has been consumed, but the chewing continues to stimulate the production of saliva which washes away the residue in so much time.
Another research study found that some artificial sweeteners used in sugar free chewing gums like Xylitol can actually be beneficial to the teeth and can even reduce the risk of cavities. The suggested method of cavity protection is to chew two pieces of gum three to five times daily for at least five minutes per chewing session. Any less time will decrease the effectiveness of the Xylitol. This is not to say that there are no drawbacks to chewing gum.
Chewing gums have also been recommended as a great way to aid weight loss, curb appetite, and even improve your memory.
According to a University of Rhode Island study headed by Kathleen Melanson, URI associate professor of nutrition and food sciences, individuals who chewed gum in the crack of dawn ate an average of 67 fewer calories at lunch. To add to it, they also did not feel the necessity to substitute their omitted calories later on in the day.
In another study, investigators in USA studied over a hundred people who chewed gum and measured their cravings before and after lunch. They found that those subjects, who chewed gum three times hourly after lunch, ate fewer high-calorie snacks. The chewers also reported decreased feelings of hunger and cravings for sweet foods. They found that they had decreased overall snack intake by 40 to 60 calories.
This led them to conclude that having something in the mouth likely calms the appetite, and consequently helps weight loss plans!
But when inquired from Max Health care’s chief dietician Dr. Ritika Samaddar said that chewing gums is an individual’s choice. “Though they are recommended by doctors for exercising facial muscles but on the other hand they are full of artificial sweeteners, therefore one cannot conclude it into good or bad category,” she concluded.
Also do note that constant chewing can lead to muscle fatigue and pain caused by temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) problems. Orthodontists explain that eight different facial muscles are used in chewing. Unnecessary chewing has been known to create chronic tightness in two of these muscles, located close to the temples. This can put pressure on the nerves that supply this area of the head, contributing to chronic, intermittent headaches.
The only caveat in chewing gum seems to be to pick sugar free over sugary. So, go ahead, and chew!
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