While growing up, we were made to believe that chewing of gum was a pastime for prostitutes. So if you were mistakenly caught in the ‘oh so forbidden’ act, then you were a goner.
Over time though, we have come to see that chewing of gum has its own health benefits, believe it or not. The act of chewing gum is not exactly a contemporary practice. It has only become more common with time and also, more acceptable in society.
While there are other reasons why people would frown at it, the most common are;
- To sustain buccal health;
- Seen as an irresponsible act (funnily, many see gum chewers as irresponsible).
- Disrespectful (some may consider it an act of disrespect to chew gum while addressing them).
According to a study by the  University of Liverpool, chewing gum can slightly curb cravings, which may help you make better eating choices. There are other advantages of chewing gum, which are;
WEIGHT LOSS – gum chewers actually burn 5% more calories than non-gum chewers. Another study from Louisiana State University indicated that chewing gum was helpful in controlling appetite, decreasing participants’ daily intake by 40 calories and reducing snack cravings.
KEEPING TEETH CLEAN – sugar-free gum helps to clean teeth. Both the act of chewing gum and the flavor of the artificial sweeteners in the gum, stimulate ten times the normal rate of saliva flow. Not only does the increased saliva flow neutralize the acids in the mouth, but it also washes away food particles, helping to keep your teeth clean.
IMPROVES DIGESTION – Chewing gum can aid in digestion. Sorbitol, a common sweetener used in gum acts as a laxative. The simple act of chewing gum helps to increase saliva flow which promotes more frequent swallowing. In excess though, it could cause diarrhea and severe weight loss.
ELIMINATES NAUSEA – nausea and vomiting can be stemmed by chewing gum. Mouth working on gum activates increased saliva production, cleansing the mouth and making it unfavorable for the nauseous feeling.
REDUCE HEARTBURN – Chewing gum after a meal not only helps to improve intestinal motility, it may also help to reduce the symptoms of chronic heartburn associated with gastrointestinal reflux or GERD.
Other advantages may be;
- Improving memory
- Fight drowsiness
- Lessen depression
Conversely, chewing gum has disadvantages and side effects which may make one question if the effort is worth the risks.
- Tooth decay – while it has been established that gum can be advantageous by cleansing the teeth, this only applies to sugar-free gum. Sugared gums can, with heavy use, cause gum disease and cavities.
- Artificial sweeteners allergies – although not very common, some people may be allergic to artificial sweeteners and will not be able to use sugar-free gums.
- Jaw stress – chewing gum exerts some pressure on the muscles of the upper and lower jaw. It could cause aches even hours after discarding it and could pose difficulty in chewing other foods (for a few minutes though).
- Stomach issues – chewing gum may or may not cause stomach disorders, but it may likely lead to an ulcer due to some reluctance to eat even after long hours of chewing. During the process of chewing, enzymes and HCL acids are releases in preparation for digestion. If there isn’t any food in your tummy while chewing gum, you’re directly exposing yourself to stomach burns.
- Chewers usually lack concentration – Social distraction –. Asides from society deeming the act as rude, people who chew gum with abandon may not be considerate of others’ feelings about it, or may just be carried away with chewing and not notice how it affects their neighbors.
- Lower jaw muscle problems – as the masseter responsible for chewing, excessive use of gum may pose a risk to the health and functionality of the masseter.
- Kidney problems
- Irregular development of facial muscles due to constant chewing or one-sided chewing.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO DIGEST GUM IF SWALLOWED? IS IT HARMFUL?
Chewing gum is designed to be chewed and not swallowed, but it is not generally harmful if swallowed. If probably you’ve been told that when you swallow gum it stays in your stomach for donkey years, that’s not true. Although gum digestion isn’t as smooth as other foods, your digestive tract finds a way to remove it from your system by moving it along through normal intestinal activity and is excreted in your stool.
IS CHEWING GUM PLASTIC?
YES! Technically, chewing gum is made of plastic. Invariably, High-Density Polyethylene is used in several packaging applications including crates, trays, bottles for milk and fruit juices, caps for food packaging, jerry cans, drums, industrial bulk containers, etc.
Chewing gum is seen as the food of minimal nutritional value. A popular constituent of gum base is classified among plastics and is used in products from plastic bags, toys, etc.
WHEN AND HOW LONG CAN YOU CHEW GUM?
It’s common to see people chewing gum while carrying out passive activities like brisk walking, listening to lectures or sermon, etc. medically, chewing gum when nothing is in your stomach can be harmful. Chewing gum soon after a meal is more beneficial to you.
According to dental health experts,  ‘Chewing for up to twenty minutes increases saliva flow, speeding up the time for the saliva to cancel out the acid’. Consequently, within half an hour of cleaning the teeth, a sticky colorless deposit appears which later forms tartar and eventually a brown or pale yellowish substance known as dental plague if formed.
Remember that plaque starts to form again within half an hour of cleaning the teeth. There’s no specific set amount of time you can chew gum for, but it is advisable to stop chewing when most of the taste is gone.
Also, if you notice you’re beginning to have lower jaw aches, discontinue chewing. While there are many benefits of chewing gum, it may not be advisable to chew every day for the sake of overworking the masseter muscle.
DOES CHEWING GUM CAUSE GAS?
Chewing gum work both ways, while chewing gum can improve intestinal motility and eventually improves digestion and reduces gas. However, when you chew gum, the swallowing reflex is active, you swallow more often and some of what you’re swallowing is air.
In addition, artificial sweeteners, such as Sorbitol, which are found in some gums can give you gas. ‘Most people produce between; a pint and half gallons of gas each day.’
Swallowing air while chewing can cause bloating. If you have a gum habit, alternate chewing gum with sucking on a piece of candy or eating a healthy, high fiber snack or fruit, or low-fat popcorn.
DOES BUBBLE GUM MAKE YOUR TEETH YELLOW?
Apart from the common causes of tooth discoloration which possibly will include drinking beverages such as coffee, soda, and wine. You might realize your mom was right when she told you candies, gums, and unrefined sugars would discolor your teeth. A diet high in sugar and carbohydrates favors bacterial growth, the formation of plague which sooner or later discolors teeth.
Sugar-sweetened gums can discolor teeth in the absence of proper dental hygiene. These substances penetrate into the enamel of your teeth and can cause long-term discoloration. Like any dental health professional would advise you, brush your teeth after every meal or rings your mouth with clean water to lower your chances of developing plague or dental caries.
CAN GUM CAUSE CANCER?
Sugar might be the energy source for your cells, it been commonly linked with causing numerous chronic dietary problems, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and even emotional disorders. Some chewing gum contains high calorie primarily from sugar alcohols, gum brands without any use of helpful additives, like xylitol and calcium lactate, would cause harm and invariably make a mess to your dentition.
WHY DO PEOPLE CHEW GUM?
- To prevent mouth odor; it is believed that the constant working of the mouth prevents mouth odor (halitosis).
- People trying to quit smoking chew gum; there are specially made gums for nicotine addicts, called nicotine gum. Nicotine gums are made to provide former smokers with nicotine. This prevents them from having nicotine withdrawal syndrome, as they still have access to nicotine but without the smoking.
- Gum may be chewed to stem craving for a diet which an individual may deem as inappropriate. For instance, a person on a weight loss diet, tempted by a high caloric meal, may chew gum instead of giving in to eating a said meal.
- People chew gum to ‘belong’. As absurd as this may sound, some people feel the need to chew gum in certain gatherings like, parties, because everyone else is chewing.
- Some believe it is a better option than candies for the teeth. This may be true with sugar-free gums, but the gum and candies belong to the same general class.
- Believe it or not, there are those who feel, ‘it keeps their mouths busy’. So instead of talking or even singing, some would opt to chew gum instead.
IS CHEWING GUM ILLEGAL IN SOME COUNTRIES?
In Nigeria, bubble gum can be classified as food, since it falls into the general definition of what foodstuff is, but it can’t be termed a meal. Hence, it shouldn’t be considered illegal. But as is the case with every rule, there is always the exception.
But if you in another part of the globe, say Singapore , under the Regulation of Imports and Exports, gum has been banned on the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) System. The act carries a steep fine. The main objective of the ban was to prevent vandals from using spent gum to disrupt MRT services.
As the popular adage goes, ‘when you’re Rome, behave like a Roman’, if you’re in Japan , chewing bubblegum is considered as rude. Not the chewing per se; but blowing bubbles is always frowned upon. Hence, the availability of soft gum is not so widespread.
Aside from very few countries with such priorities as banning of chewing gum, the act is not illegal. It has come to be regarded as a personal choice or a matter of need of the individual performing the act. And as all things that change, chewing of gum is no longer as highly criticized as it used to be.
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