Teenagers are notorious for gum-chewing, especially if it’s somehow disruptive to those around them. This lip-smacking, bubble-popping, disregard is usually enough to give someone a headache, but according to a new study conducted by Meir Medical Center and published in Pediatric Neurology, all that gum is also giving them a headache, as well.

Headaches are fairly common in childhood, and usually become more common during the teenage years. Common triggers are thought to be stress, tiredness, lack of sleep, smoke, and menstruation, but it looks like chewing gum can also be added to the list.

The Study

The study began when Dr. Watemberg noticed that many of his patients who reported headaches were daily gum chewers. In many of these same cases, he found that headaches were far less common when patients stopped chewing gum. Dr. Watemberg’s observation birthed a new research study. Conducting a statistically analysis, researchers found that over 60 percent of his patients with chronic migraines or tension headaches chewed gum daily. When asked to stop chewing gum, they noticed a significant reduction in headaches.

Of the current research that has studied the same phenomenon, there are two different explanations. One study blamed the artificial sweetener, aspartame, as a possible cause of the headaches, while another hypothesized that it was the added stress to the temporomandibular joint.

Is TMJ to Blame?

Temporomandibular joint disorder, also known as TMJ, has been shown to cause frequent headaches, which is why Dr. Watemberg favors this explanation. The temporomandibular joints connect the jaw to the skull, and work with the muscles of mastication to allow your mouth to move side-to-side and back-and-forth. The jaw is an incredibly complex systems made of muscles, tendons, and nerve endings that connect to several parts of the jaw. When these joints become dysfunctional, this can cause significant ramifications through the rest of the skull, which can include a variety of symptoms that aren’t commonly thought of as specific to TMJ, including, tingling fingers, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and frequent headaches.

Getting Help For Your Headaches

If you regularly experience frequent headaches alongside other TMJ-symptoms, the first thing you should do is stop chewing gum. This can weaken the TMJ joint, causing pain. The next thing you should do is schedule an appointment with a TMJ dentist. Often they can work with you to provide the most comprehensive TMJ treatment available.

TMJ can be complicated to understand, and this page contains some technical information that may be easier to understand in person. Dr. Adam Hahn is an expert at explaining it in plain, straightforward language. To talk to them about TMJ, please call (803) 781-9090 or contact Smile Columbia Dentistry in Columbia, SC today for an appointment.