Early civilizations have suggested to us that chewing gum is not something new.
The tradition of chewing gum has been observed in our ancestors through many forms. Their gums often came from birch bark tar, chicle, mastic gum from the resin of the mastic tree, other plants, grasses, and resins.
However, the modernization and commercialization of chewing gum began in the United States when New England settlers picked up the practice of the American Indians. The American Indians would chew resin made from the sap of spruce trees. Maine businessman John B. Curtis is credited for developing and selling the first commercial chewing gum in 1848. He named this the State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum.
Presently, chewing gum remains to be a well-known confectionery product. It is believed the global chewing gum market will be worth 32.63 billion US dollars by 2019.
What is chewing gum?
Chewing gum tends to have a rubber-like texture. It is intended to be chewed and spitted. It is categorized as a confectionery product made of a gum base. Sweeteners, plasticizers or softeners, coloring, and flavoring are also often part of modern gum. Typically, gum is coated with hard or powdered polyol coating.
Why do people chew gum?
Many opt to chew gum to obtain fresher breath, particularly with mint gum. Additionally, others opt to chew gum for the mere fun of it. Some enjoy that it helps them concentrate when they are working or studying. Others love the wide range of flavors, textures, shapes, sizes, and packaging of gum. For some folks, getting to blow bubbles is their favorite part of chewing gum.
Is chewing gum good for you?
There have been studies that tie chewing gum with migraines due to the artificial sweetener aspartame sometimes found in the product. Another study suggested that the prolonged chewing of gum can lead to migraines. In fact, migraine headaches are among the top 20 most crippling illness in the world.
Still, there is a lot of research that suggests chewing gum has its benefits. These benefits include warding off food cravings; improving brain and digestive function; and relieving stress, acid reflux, and heartburn.
- Less food cravings. According to a study by Louisiana State University, those who chew gum after a meal had less food cravings throughout the day than those who did not. As a result, this makes them less likely to consume high-calorie foods.
- Boosts memory. Chewing gum also improves memory and cognitive performance by increasing blood flow to the brain. In turn, this results in an higher amount of oxygen being delivered to the brain. An increase in the oxygen supplied to the brain increases its overall efficiency.
- Relaxing. Chewing gum is also known to help ease tension and release nervous energy. This can reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, in the body. Too much cortisol can otherwise cause high glucose, higher risk of infections, among other complications.
- Aids digestion. Additionally, chewing gum is helpful in improving the digestive system as it stimulates saliva flow, both promoting easier swallowing and activating the digestive process.
- Helps ease acid reflux. By chewing gum after a meal, acid in the esophagus is reduced, relieving acid reflux and symptoms of heartburn.
If it’s good for the body…
Is chewing gum good for the teeth?
It is actually dependent on the kind of chewing gum you chew.
What makes a chewing gum bad for the teeth?
Chewing gum with added sugar is what is bad for the teeth as the sugar found in the gum can heighten the production of oral bacteria that can lead to cavities.
Still, fans of chewing gum need not worry. There are chewing gums available without the harmful effects of sugar.
According to studies, sugarless chewing gums are beneficial to teeth as they clean the teeth, reduce decay-causing bacteria, and strengthen the enamel.
- Kills bacteria. According to an article from Medical Daily, chewing sugarless gum can kill 100 million bacteria in as fast as ten minutes.
- Prevents dental caries and gum disease. Meanwhile, the American Dental Association reported that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following a meal can reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease as it triggers the production of saliva in the mouth.
- Cleans your mouth. Due to the increased saliva production in your mouth, leftover food particles are washed away, and acids are neutralized.
- Strengthens enamel. Another benefit of chewing sugarless gum is its ability to strengthen the enamel through triggering the flow of saliva in the mouth. The saliva contains calcium and phosphate which support the strengthening of the outer layer of the teeth.
Still, despite the benefits of chewing sugarless gum, remember that it will never serve as a replacement to proper oral care.
What should you do for better teeth?
Moderation will always be the key. Chew gum in moderation as to not strain your chewing muscles and cause problems like temporomandibular jaw joint disorder.
Moreover, make sure to chew sugarless gum to avoid the harms added sugar can give your teeth and other body parts.
Make sure to partner the benefits of chewing sugarless gum with the benefits of proper oral hygiene. Brush your teeth at least twice daily for two minutes. However, do not simply pick up the toothpaste and brush away. Instead, practice proper brushing including the application of the right pressure, duration, angle, and stroke for best results.
Flossing will also be helpful in freeing your teeth from food particles that may have stuck between your teeth and reaching areas that brushing may have missed. Finish off with a mouth rinse for optimum oral care.
Most importantly, visit your dentist at least twice a year for your biannual dental checkup and professional dental cleaning treatment.
Ancient Chewing Gum
When understanding our prehistoric ancestors, archeologists often used human bones as a basis. They are, after all, what’s leftover after millions of years. But even then, there are complications. While cemeteries did exist during that time, ancient humans didn’t necessarily control where they died for the most part. And at times, these human bones can be found in places that make it easier for them to decompose.
For the most part, scientists can make do regardless of these circumstances if the bone around the inner ear is kept intact. Archeologists and geneticists can get a better glimpse of how our ancestors lived with this ancient chewing gum. They can also tell what illnesses they had and how they might have looked like.
How so, you may ask? Encased in the birch pitch is genetic material, presumably from prehistoric saliva. Aside from this, scientists also learned a bit about the subject’s diet. This is thanks to a few remnants of their last meal. (You could imagine, then, what archeologists of the future might determine from the chewing gum we leave behind.)
Understanding human DNA and the oral microbiome from ancient chewing gum
After extracting the genetic matter from the ancient chewing gum, how do scientists make sense of this material? As it turns out, the birch pitch doesn’t only preserve human DNA. It also keeps microbial DNA as well. This gives archeologists and geneticists alike a clearer picture of the subject in question.
In this case, scientists determined that the genetic material came from a woman—dubbed “Lola”—who came from the European mainland, according to an article by CNN. (Lola’s gum was located at an archeological site in Lolland, hence the name.) Based on the human DNA extracted from the gum, these scientists determined Lola’s appearance based on the genes sequenced. Here, they found that Lola had “blue eyes, dark skin, and dark hair,” according to the article.
Aside from appearance, scientists also found some insights into Lola’s health based on her oral microbiome. Lola was lactose-intolerant, for one, and potentially had pneumonia. Scientists also noted possible traces of the Epstein-Barr virus.
What can this discovery teach us, then? Our mouths tell more about us than we realize. We’ve often heard that our oral health is the window to our overall health, but health is just one aspect of it. As it turns out, it can clue others into our eating habits and traits as well.
So what’s the bottom line? Take care of your mouth. You’ll never know what discoveries they hold.