Chewing gum isn’t just a fun group of candy enjoyed by children, it also provides many oral health benefits if it’s the right type of gum. For instance, sugar-free chewing gum can increase saliva production, prevent tooth decay, whiten teeth, and even provide a fresher breath. However, chewing gum can also affect your jaw and contribute to painful TMJ symptoms. Before you start chewing gum to benefit your oral health, learn how it can affect your jaw first.

woman putting chewing gum in her mouth

To Chew or Not to Chew?

It’s known that chewing gum comes with lots of oral health benefits, but are these health benefits worth the contribution to temporomandibular joint disorder? It depends.

Think of chewing gum like going for a run. If you run a marathon every day, you’re going to feel sore afterward. On the flip side, if you go for a light run or a walk daily, you likely won’t feel sore. In other words, if you excessively chew gum all day every day, it’s going to cause a sore jaw and potentially cause TMD. But if you chew maybe one or two pieces of gum per day, it’s likely only going to benefit your oral health.

If you’re capable of not over chewing your gum, you can experience these health benefits:

Increased Saliva Production

If you suffer from dry mouth, chewing gum can help increase saliva production. Saliva production is important for helping you eat, swallow as well as speak. Dry mouth is commonly a side effect of several medications such as muscle relaxants and antihistamines. As you chew, the muscles in your mouth compress the salivary glands which help release saliva.

Tooth Decay Prevention

Since chewing gum increases saliva production, it also helps protect your teeth from decay. Saliva washes away bacteria and food debris from your mouth and also neutralizes the mouth’s pH balance. Saliva also contains nutrients such as fluoride and calcium which can strengthen your enamel. Each of these factors aids in tooth decay prevention. Studies suggest that chewing sugar-free gum for just 20 minutes after eating can reduce plaque and tartar, bad breath, and cavities.

Whiter Teeth

The longer that coffee, tomato sauce, or another staining substance rests on your teeth, the more likely it will cause stains. By chewing gum after eating or drinking, you’re increasing your saliva production and helping to wash away the substance from your teeth. As a result, you can prevent surface stains from occurring and therefore whiten your teeth. There is also gum on the market that’s purpose is to whiten your teeth.

Less Bad Breath

Nobody wants to walk around with bad breath. Chewing minty sugar-free gum offers a quick and easy fix for fresh breath. Although nothing compares to actually brushing your teeth.

All of these oral health benefits sound great right? They’re only worth it if you don’t chew gum excessively, otherwise, you will end up with jaw pain.

What is TMD?

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the jaw joint that connects your jaw to your skull. It’s located adjacent to your ears and works like a hinge. When the joint becomes injured, it can result in temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). Some of the causes of this disorder include:

  • Jaw injury
  • Misaligned teeth
  • Teeth clenching or grinding
  • Bad posture
  • Arthritis
  • Stress
  • Excessive gum chewing

TMJ can affect the jaw directly as well as surrounding areas of the body. Common symptoms of the disorder include:

How Does Chewing Gum Cause TMJ Disorder?

Chewing gum is only harmful to your jaw joint if you’re doing it in excess. Going back to the running analogy 一 if you don’t chew gum ever and then decide to chew on a piece for several hours in a day, your jaw will likely feel sore. If you continue this habit, you will put a strain on the jaw joint and the surrounding muscles. The more that you strain your jaw joint, the more likely you will develop TMD. You’re even more likely to develop TMD if you chew gum as well as have misaligned teeth and a bruxism habit.

Just try to remember that chewing gum and chewing, in general, is a form of exercise and that any exercise in excess can lead to sore muscles or muscle strain.

Get TMJ Treatment in Columbia, SC

If you happen to experience any TMJ symptoms listed above regardless of whether you have a gum-chewing habit or not, you likely need TMJ treatment. At Smile Columbia, Dr. Adam Hahn can create a customized TMJ treatment plan that will help you reduce your painful symptoms and get back to your normal life. Please contact our dental office for TMJ treatment in Columbia, SC at (803) 781-9090 to book a consultation to get started.