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Gum Chewers Generate Jaw Pain

TMJ Sufferers Face Higher Risk

Gum Chewers Generate Jaw Pain

By Sean Zucker –

When it comes to chewing gum, there are a lot of old wise tales touting its benefits. Some say it can strengthen jawlines, while others claim the habit helps support concentration. Research is far less enthusiastic about supporting many of these beliefs. One study, however, does warn that for those who suffer from temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, regularly chomping away every day will certainly make the condition worse.

Although TMJ or temporomandibular joint dysfunction is a common condition, its symptoms are no less encumbering. The Cleveland Clinic, for example, warns that TMJ disorder causes persistent pain and tenderness in jaw joints and the surrounding muscles. The clinic also notes that as much as 12 percent of the adult population suffer from the ailment, citing common causes including teeth grinding, jaw injuries or arthritis, as well as everyday wear and tear. As treatment is dependent on the individual person and cause, relief might require something as simple as sleeping with a mouthguard or as intrusive as surgery. Medication and physical therapy may also be options.

But if someone subscribes to the belief that chewing gum boosts jaw health, it’s understandable that they’d assume the habit could help minimize TMJ symptoms. Unfortunately, research on the topic suggests the opposite effect. In fact, a team with the Oral and Dental Health Care Research Center at Shiraz University in Iran examined whether chewing gum can actually cause TMJ rather than help it.

Specifically, the researchers set out to investigate the prevalence of TMJ, referred to in the study as temporomandibular disorder, in adolescents with and without habitual gum chewing habits. They then looked at the association between the prevalence of TMJ symptoms and gum chewing duration.

Conducted as a cross-sectional study, 200 subjects were divided into two groups with one group involving participants who chewed gum for either 30, 60 or 120 minutes each day and a control group that did not chew gum at all during the testing period. The symptoms of TMJ that the researchers assessed were jaw clicking, crepitus and general jaw pain. Age, gender, duration of gum chewing and occlusal relationships, which is how upper teeth and lower teeth come together when the mouth is closed, were also considered variables.

The results showed no significant differences in gender, age or occlusion between the two groups. However, the incidence of clicking and jaw pain was notably higher in the gum-chewing group when compared to the control group. Further analysis by the team even revealed significant differences in clicking and pain among volunteers with varying gum chewing durations in the study group. In general, those who chewed gum for longer periods throughout the day tended to experience more symptoms.

Ultimately, the study’s authors concluded that intensive gum chewing may influence TMJ symptoms, with a longer duration of gum chewing potentially increasing TMJ disorder’s prevalence.

Verywell Health confirms that it’s best to avoid the habit when dealing with the condition. To further help minimize TMJ symptoms, the site recommends avoiding teeth clenching, eating hard foods, like apples or bagels, and chewing primarily on one side. Additionally, it warns that oral fixation habits such as chewing on pen caps or biting nails may also aggravate TMJ. But, possibly more than anything, if somebody has TMJ and is chewing gum it’s probably best to heed this advice: spit it out.





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