People have been chewing gum for thousands of years — and for good reason. Chewing gum is linked to a number of potential health benefits. In addition to freshening your breath, chewing gum can help reduce your stress levels (via Healthline).
Several studies have shown that chewing gum can help relieve stress and increase feelings of alertness. This is because the act of chewing actually can increase your cortisol levels, which play an important role in helping your body respond to stress.
Chewing gum can also stimulate saliva flow, which can help wash away any plaque and leftover food in your mouth. This can help protect your teeth from cavities, especially if you’re chewing sugar-free gum.
Gum that is sweetened with xylitol instead of sugar can help prevent tooth decay and drastically reduce the amount of bad bacteria in your mouth. Additionally, chewing sugar-free gum can help prevent young children from developing painful, middle-ear infections.
The downsides of chewing too much gum
While chewing gum can potentially benefit your health, there are limits. Chewing too much gum can cause painful and unpleasant side effects. For instance, excessive gum chewing can impact your digestion, causing stomach upset (via Insider).
When you chew gum, you also end up swallowing extra pockets of air, which can cause gas and bloating. This can lead to abdominal pain and discomfort, which may be particularly painful for people living with irritable bowel syndrome.
The artificial sweeteners present in sugar-free gum, like sorbitol, can also cause bloating, cramping, or chronic diarrhea if chewed in excess.
Furthermore, chewing too much gum can wreak havoc on your jaw (via Bustle). Excessive chewing can lead to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), and for those who already have TMJ, chewing gum can cause increased jaw pain and discomfort.
In rare cases, surgery may even be required to repair any jaw damage caused by excessive gum-chewing. Chewing gum in moderation can help you avoid experiencing any of these potential side effects.