Whether you chew gum to freshen your breath or reduce stress, it can have both a positive and negative effect on your oral health. When you’re chewing gum, you’re probably not thinking about how it impacts your jaw. However, it’s worth paying attention to the effects of gum chewing so you can prevent specific oral health problems.
Continue reading to learn more about the correlation between chewing gum and your jaw’s health.
The Gum Chewing Controversy
Most dentists agree that chewing gum once in a while isn’t detrimental to your oral health. Chewing sugarless gum helps stimulate saliva production, which stunts plaque growth and reduces cavities, according to the American Dental Association. On the flip side, some dentists believe it leads to temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ for short.
Find out how chewing gum can lead to TMJ syndrome.
What Is TMJ Syndrome?
The temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to your skull. When it’s injured, it can lead to localized pain in your jaw joint, known as TMJ syndrome. Causes of this disorder include:
- Teeth or Jaw Injury
- Misaligned Teeth
- Teeth Grinding
- Teeth Clenching
- Bad Posture
- Excessive Gum Chewing
You may have TMJ syndrome if you experience the following:
- Jaw Pain
- Jaw Clicking and Popping
- Ear pain
- Ringing in Your Ears
- Pain in Your Temples
- Stiff Jaw Muscles
- Locked Jaw Joint
Why Does Chewing Gum Result in TMJ Syndrome?
If you’re a habitual gum chewer, you may think it’s a harmless habit. Although gum isn’t inherently harmful, it should be enjoyed in moderation.
Even though you can comfortably eat other foods, most people tend to chew gum mindlessly. You’re more mindful of your chewing when you eat dinner, and you probably chew slowly and think about every bite. However, when you chew gum, you may be masticating too hard without realizing it.
Think of gum chewing as a form of mild jaw exercise; similar to other muscles in your body, overusing your jaw can lead to exhaustion. Chronic gum chewing may lead to extreme pain and migraines, and it can result in TMJ syndrome. If you think you’re suffering from this disorder, you should stop chewing gum until you consult with an oral surgeon.
How Can I treat TMJ Syndrome?
If you’ve been diagnosed with TMJ syndrome, you may need to undergo surgery. Fortunately, you have options, as there are three types of surgery:
- Arthroscopy: The least invasive and most common TMJ procedure. An oral surgeon can extract inflamed tissue and prepare your mouth for realignment.
- Arthroplasty: Involves a large incision to expose the jaw joint. A surgeon will repair and replace the disc that allows you to open and close your jaw.
- Total Joint Replacement: In severe cases, total joint replacement may be necessary. Patients are required to stay at the hospital for one week.