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The Benefits of Chewing Gum

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The act of chewing gum dates all the way back to ancient times. According to Merriam Webster, chewing gum is defined as “a type of soft candy that you chew but do not swallow.” The Mayans and Aztecschewed sap from the sapodilla tree to fight hunger and quench thirst. The Native Americans passed their habit of chewing spruce sap on to European settlers. Chewing gum in its various forms has been used in different ways from being a habit to assisting in medical treatments. Even though chewing gum causes bloat, it impacts overall health positively.

The act of chewing gum reduces the levels of harmful bacteria and acid in the mouth that cause tooth decay. Research by the American Dental Association suggests that “Saliva buffers the effects of acids in foods or drinks that could otherwise soften teeth’s enamel surface, and swallowing excess saliva created by stimulation clears acid.” Enamel is defined as the outer layer of each tooth and it is the most visible part of the tooth. The production of saliva is enhanced, which helps to clear the mouth of food debris and sugars. Without enough saliva flow, individuals are at risk for numerous oral health problems. Although most chewing gum is a sticky, sugary dental disaster, sugar-free gum containing the natural sweetener xylitol can improve dental health. The Chief Dental Director of Western Dental, Dr. Louis Amendola, stated, “The bacteria that contribute to tooth decay, Streptococcus mutans, feed on sucrose, the sugar that we eat. As they multiply, the bacteria release acids that lead to tooth decay, but bacteria can’t digest xylitol, so they can’t multiply or release the decay-causing acids. Xylitol also increases saliva and its pH level, which helps remineralize tooth enamel and fight plaque buildup.” The harmful bacteria and acids in the mouth are diminished with the use of gum.

While chewing gum may be seen as a social distraction, it can help enhance cognitive performance and productivity while working. According to a study from 2015, “Chewing gum was associated with enhanced productivity and reduced cognitive errors at work, as well as heightened cortisol in the morning”. The study recruited one hundred and twenty-six full-time staff at Cardiff University. On the morning of the testing day, the participants completed mood and attention tasks. They were required to chew ten pieces of gum and encouraged to chew when they felt stressed. After work, they returned to the laboratory and completed the same tasks from that morning. As a result, chewing gum was significantly associated with the reporting of fewer cognitive problems and lower levels of being behind with work. This research offers further support of the effects of chewing gum, which is associated with the enhancement of alertness both with and without cognitive performance. A report in the Journal of Adolescence talked about a study that investigated the effects of gum chewing on standardized math scores in adolescents. Participants included one hundred and eight math students in the eighth grade. They were randomly split into a group that was provided gum during testing or a control condition with no gum. In order to assess academic performance, the math sections of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) and the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement (WJ-III) were used. “Students in the gum-chewing condition improved standardized test scores and maintained higher grades in math class compared to those in the no-gum chewing condition”. The results suggest that gum-chewing is a cost-effective and easily implemented method to increase student performance.

Halitosis also referred to as bad breath, is targeted by the use of chewing gum. Research from the University of Barcelona aimed to estimate the prevalence of halitosis in the young population and show the effect of chewing gum on their breath. NewsRx journalists suggests, ‘The use of chewing gum as an adjunct in cases of halitosis decreases the VSC, improving the perception of others and the patient.’ VSC, volatile sulfur compounds are what causes halitosis. The mechanical act of chewing helps to pull out debris that is stuck in teeth. Gum with the natural sweetener xylitol can prevent the growth of bacteria that causes bad breath. The gum itself can bring more saliva to the mouth, which will naturally make the mouth fresher. Chewing gum is an easy method to diminish bad breath that causes people, especially the young population, to feel insecure.

Chewing gum helps patients feel better after abdominal surgery by reducing nausea and returning normal bowel function. After an individual has surgery on their abdomen, the digestive system can completely stop working for a few days. This is called paralytic ileus, a common complication of abdominal surgery. Research suggests that “patients who chew gum after surgery experience a faster return of bower function and pass flatus significantly sooner than those who don’t chew gum”. The act of chewing gum tricks the stomach into thinking that food is being eaten which increases bowel movements and reduces the period of paralysis. In addition, paralytic ileus makes the improvement of the bowel delayed and increases the hospital days of stay. An interventional study took forty volunteer patients undergoing cholecystectomy surgery, the surgical removal of the gallbladder, and separated them randomly into intervention and control groups. “Patients in the intervention group chewed sugar-free gum (Orbit brand produced by Wrigley Company) 3 times a day for 20 minutes each time after full consciousness until the beginning of the oral intake”. The results from this study showed that chewing sugar-free gum after cholecystectomy surgery led to the improvement of bowel function of the patients and decreased hospital stay time. A common argument that influences people not to chew gum is that it causes the swallowing of extra air which leads to abdominal bloating. While that may be true, it is still important to remember that the health benefits of chewing gum on the abdomen outweigh that argument. Gum chewing leads to the reduction of paralytic ileus and it can be used as an inexpensive and useful method for bowel stimulation.

The benefits of chewing gum go far beyond the mouth. It aids in the recovery of the body and enhances brain function. In today’s society, people lack confidence due to the perception others may have of them. Teeth are the first thing people see. Chewing gum can help get rid of food in the mouth to make an individual’s smile is clear. It is an inexpensive way to help the body and mind. Humans have chewed gum since ancient times, therefore it only makes sense that there’s more to the habit than fresh breath.

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