The elastic-snapping, bubble-popping, flavor-bursting novelty of chewing gum is an age-old pastime taken on by adults and children alike, who want to freshen their breath, keep hunger at bay, or give their minds something entertaining to do. While chewing gum has a reputation as a simple way to add a bit of fun and flavor to your day, this seemingly innocent practice is far more powerful than many people realize. Today we’ll explore what exactly this childhood treat is, and the surprising effects it has on your physical health.
What Is Chewing Gum?
In its most basic form, chewing gum is a soft substance derived from the sticky sap of trees that has been processed to remove impurities and made into a chewable material. To be specific, modern chewing gum is made from a combination of a synthetic rubber (referred to as gum), resin for strength, fillers for texture, preservatives for extended shelf life, and softeners like wax to keep it from hardening. Sweeteners and flavorings are typically added to make gum more palatable, and can range from sugars and corn syrup to sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners.
Where Did Chewing Gum Come From?
Chewing gum has been around for centuries, with some discoveries indicating its use nearly 9000 years ago. At that time, tar processed from birchbark was standard, and even the ancient Greeks had something similar called mastic, which was used to freshen breath and prevent dry mouth. Eventually, the custom was adopted by European settlers from Native Americans and the Inuit, who made gum from the sap of spruce trees.
7 Ways Chewing Gum Has A Powerful Impact On Your Physical Health
The act of chewing gum may seem like a simple, heedless activity, but its effects on your health are surprisingly powerful. Here are 7 ways chewing gum can impact your health.
1. Neutralize Odors & Fight Against Bad Breath. If protecting the smell of your breath is something you worry about, chewing gum can quickly become your best friend. Not only can it help reduce the buildup of bacteria and plaque in your mouth, which helps to control bad breath, but it can mask strong-smelling foods and spices like onions and garlic. If you choose to chew sugar-free gums with natural sweeteners, like xylitol and sorbitol, this can help reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth that may cause bad breath. Plus, chewing on gum can help protect your teeth by removing food debris that would otherwise get stuck between your teeth and allow bacteria to multiply.
2. Can Help You Lose Weight. Chewing gum can help you lose weight by curbing hunger and cravings, making you eat less. It also helps reduce the amount of calories consumed and decreases the temptation to snack on unhealthy foods. Additionally, some studies have suggested that chewing gum may increase metabolism and burn more calories. Chewing gum is an easy and convenient way to control your appetite and boost your energy levels, without compromising on flavor.
3. Fight Back Against Acid Reflux. Popping a piece of chewing gum after eating a meal, can help fight against acid reflux by stimulating the production of extra saliva. This can help neutralize acids in your esophagus and stomach, which are responsible for the symptoms of acid reflux, heartburn, and regurgitation issues.
4. Improve Memory Retention. Chewing gum has been studied to have a positive effect on memory retention in both short and long-term scenarios. The increased blood flow from chewing stimulates the brain, positively impacting alertness, focus and recall. Studies have also indicated that the act of chewing gum can increase levels of energy, which then lead to improved concentration for better storage of information into the long-term memory. Ultimately, chewing sugar-free gum offers an effective approach to improve memory retention by stimulating the brain.
5. Reduce Your Stress & Anxiety Levels. Studies have shown that chewing gum can help lower cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress. Chewing also increases blood flow to the brain, resulting in improved cognitive performance. Additionally, chewing triggers a reflex in your nervous system that relaxes your body and helps reduce anxiety. Research suggests that certain types of gum like mint-flavored or CBD-based gum may promote relaxation and provide support for conditions like social anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
6. Boost Saliva Production & Combat Dry Mouth. Chewing gum can help increase saliva production, making it an effective remedy for dry mouth. The act of chewing stimulates the salivary glands, resulting in increased saliva production and aiding in digestion. Saliva not only helps keep your mouth feeling moist, but it also contains important enzymes that break down food and protect against bacteria overgrowth in the mouth. Additionally, chewing sugarless gum can reduce the risk of cavities by helping to wash away food particles that would otherwise feed plaque-causing bacteria.
7. Reduce Tooth Decay Risks. By increasing saliva production, chewing gum helps to thin out the amount of acid in your mouth produced by plaque bacteria, which would otherwise erode your teeth. Not only that, but saliva carries calcium and phosphate in it, which helps to remineralize and strengthen enamel, meaning it can also repair the damage acid would have caused! This effect can be boosted even more with a fluoride toothpaste, as the fluoride forms crystals that replace the weaker components in tooth enamel! Studies show that this effect is maximized by chewing sugar-free gum for just 20 minutes after each meal, as long as it’s combined with regular brushing and flossing.
While chewing sugarless gum is a simple and effective way to help keep your mouth healthy and keep dental issues like dry mouth, cavities, and bad breath at bay, it’s important to remember that gum should not be used as a substitute for brushing and flossing your teeth. Give us a call at (813) 333-1922 to learn more about how you can work the use of chewing gum into your dental care regimen, or contact us on our website.