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The Magical Powers of Chewing Gum!?

The Magical Powers of Chewing Gum!?

Who would have thought that the simple act of chewing gum could be so beneficial to our mouths and bodies!? For many years, I was in the school of thought that chewing gum was simply a mindless activity that caused cavities and TMJ discomfort since so many people chew sugary-sweet gum. I fondly remember when my mom would pull out that Wrigley’s Spearmint gum from her purse and give my brother and I a stick. The smell of spearmint still brings me back to those days immediately. Unfortunately, that brand and variety contained sugar and we all should know by now that this is a big dental No-No. My kids have the same reaction when I open my car console and release the Sirens’ call (see Greek Mythology) of Orbit Bubblemint or Trident’s Wintermint. (All sugar-free of course).

In dental school (ca. 1990), I learned of the benefits of chewing sugar-free gum following meals and snacks. It acts to increase salivation and help to remove loose food particles and therefore pre-clean the teeth before you can get to your good old toothbrush again.

Now, even more research is coming out that extols the virtues of gum for an entirely different reason. In an article in the Journal of Prosthetic Research, researchers at Tokyo Dental College in Japan had subjects chew gum for various intervals after they had increase their stress levels by making them perform arithmetic equations. The subjects chewed for 5,10, 15 minute intervals or not at all. Saliva levels were taken before and after the gum-chewing and their levels of cortisol was checked. Cortisol is a hormone that is released from our adrenal cortex that helps battle stress. It turns out that those who chewed for 10 or 15 minutes had a significant reduction in levels of cortisol as compared to the other test groups. This study builds on several earlier studies linking chewing gum to reduced stress. So, if you are feeling stressed, just find my mom and ask her for a piece of gum. ( I am pretty sure that I have convinced her into only carrying sugar-free gum by now…)

It turns out that this advertisement from the 50’s is not too far off…

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