The sticky truth behind chewing gum

Posted on October 28, 2021 | Hot Topics

The sticky truth behind chewing gum

But first, a brief history

We bet you didn’t know that chewing gum has a long and fascinating history. For real, it does! For 5,000 years humans have enjoyed chewing on bark tar, resin from the mastic tree and other plants and grasses. Indegenous people even made a form of gum from spruce tree sap. 

But, for most of our history, we have used chicle, a natural gum made from trees in a similar way that natural rubber is produced. Political reform in Guatemala during the 1950’s meant that big chewing gum companies like Wrigley no longer had access to chicle, so by the mid 1960’s most gum was produced from a butadiene-based synthetic rubber.

Ok, pop quiz! Just kidding. We know that was a lot of information, but it was pretty fascinating, wasn’t it?

Is it bad to swallow gum?

Did you catch that last party in the history of gum? Manufacturers began producing gum with a form of synthetic rubber, and that doesn’t sound too appetizing. This might come as a shock, but gum is generally harmless to your body.  Have you ever heard people claim that swallowed gum will stay in your stomach for seven years or that it will stick to your lungs? While it is usually a good idea to simply spit out used gum, only a very large quantity of gum or gum that is swallowed with food or foreign objects poses any risk to blocking your intestinal tract.

Is gum bad for your teeth?

Because many varieties of gum contain sugar as a primary ingredient, frequent gum use can be harmful to your teeth. Sugar feeds the bacteria that cause plaque, which in turn eats away at the enamel on your teeth. A lot of sugary gum means that bacteria is getting a lot of food and it can grow, which can lead to a lot more plaque. Additionally, while many people chew gum for fresh breath, the end result of extra bacteria (caused by the extra sugar) only repeats this vicious cycle.

How about sugar-free gum?

Studies have shown that sugar-free gum is actually good for your teeth. When you chew, saliva is produced that helps to wash away food particles. In fact, saliva is your body’s first natural defense against the bacteria in your mouth. Further, some sugar-free gum is made with a natural sugar substitute called xylitol that has been shown to reduce cavities and protect teeth. Even with xylitol, however, chewing gum can never replace brushing and flossing. Sugar-free gum can be a good alternative for people who love to chew gum but also want to protect their teeth.

What about your kid and gum?

Let’s face it: kids aren’t exactly known for proper eating habits. Infants and toddlers are especially bad about swallowing things they probably shouldn’t, like toothpaste and – you guessed it – chewing gum! It’s okay to let your child enjoy a piece of gum every now and then, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until the child is old enough to understand not to swallow the gum, and that’s around age 5. t. You might even want to start with half a stick of gum to minimize the amount of gum swallowed if it accidentally happens. Just remind your child regularly that it is not candy and should not be swallowed like a piece of candy. Also, be sure to give them sugar-free gum!

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