Although chewing sugar free gum, especially gum containing Xylitol, has been shown to stimulate saliva production and help reduce harmful bacteria in the mouth, new research indicates that chewing gum habitually could actuallybe the cause of mild to severe headaches.

Research findings from Tel Aviv University, as published in the journal Pediatric Neurology, found that chewing gum could be responsible for up to 87% of chronic headaches and migraines in teenagers.

In the study, Dr. Watemberg and his colleagues asked 30 patients aged 6-19 years old to give up chewing gum for one month. Most of these patients chewed gum habitually from 1-6 hours per day.

By the end of the month, 7 of the 30 children stated that they noticed a decrease in the frequency and intensity of their headaches and a further 19 out of 30 patients reported their headaches had completely ceased.
To further test the relationship between gum and headaches, 26 of the research subjects then agreed to resume gum chewing again for two weeks. Within a few days, 100% of them experienced a return in headache symptoms.

How gum chewing can cause headaches

Excessive gum chewing is believed to place stress on the temporomandibular joint or TMJ, which connects the jaw bone to the skull.  It is presumed that the excessive use of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) through gum chewing can be a cause of headaches.  
This connection was made partly based on the knowledge that individuals with TMJ dysfunction (TMD) are found to have significantly higher levels of headaches than the general population.  To understand why this happens, it is necessary to understand what TMD is.

TMD, or Tempromandular Disorder, refers to an imbalance in the jaw to skull relationship.When the jaw is misaligned, both the hard and soft tissues are affected and many physiological problems can result, such as headaches, jaw pain, neck and shoulder pain, tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, and clicking or popping sounds in the jaw joint.

If you suffer from these symptoms, whether you chew gum or not, ask your dental care provider to examine you for TMD.

Conclusions

Although the Tel Aviv University study covers a small sample size and there is some reasonable doubt that could be cast about the reliability of the sample group of teens to detect and express their symptoms accurately, the commonsense recommendation of giving up habitual and excessive gum chewing, especially for people with a history of headaches, does have merit.

If giving up gum chewing means fewer headaches for you or your teens, it would be well worth forgoing the positive effects of gum chewing on dental health from increased saliva production.

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