William Semple, a dentist from Ohio, first patented chewing gum in 1896. Today, gum containing sugar is regarded as bad for your oral health; however, both the World Dental Federation and the British Dental Association have recognized many benefits in chewing sugarless varieties. Chewing gum not only affects your teeth and gums, but it also affects your tongue.
Minor salivary glands are located on the tongue, in addition to sublingual salivary ducts which are found underneath the tongue. The production of saliva is important to clear food particles away from the teeth. Saliva also protects the teeth from acids created by food and plaque. Chewing gum increases the production of saliva by 10 times the normal rate. As the salivary glands on the tongue and beneath the tongue create more saliva, it positively impacts your overall oral health.
Chewing sugar-free gum also stimulates the production of saliva on the tongue to elimate dry-mouth. Saliva is made up of water, mucin, protein and enzymes that lubricate the mouth, without which the mouth becomes exceedingly dry. Dry mouth can lead to discomfort, cracking and fissures on the tongue. This can eventually cause speech problems if it is not treated. Chewing sugar-free gum is a way to stimulate saliva production to avoid these problems.
Chewing gum freshens your breath in the short-term, but it does not help bad breath in the long-run. Fresh breath is largely related to the health of the tongue. Bad breath is caused by volatile sulfur compounds on the tongue. Chewing gum does not reduce the amount of volatile sulfur compounds on the tongue, even when chewing sugarless varieties. Chewing gum may even provide sustenance that these bacteria can thrive on, increasing the number of microorganisms that cause bad breath.
For some people, chewing cinnamon gum can harm the tongue by causing irritation. When chewing a stick of cinnamon-flavored gum, some people experience soreness, inflammation or even sores and lesions along the border of the tongue. This is due to an allergy to cinnamaldehyde, the primary chemical that gives cinnamon its spicy flavor. While a mild burning sensation on the tongue may occur due to the spiciness of cinnamon flavored chewing gum, sores and lesions on the tongue are a sign of a cinnamon allergy. However, once the person stops chewing cinnamon flavored gum, the symptoms should dissipate within 1 to 2 days.
- Wrigley; The role of Sugarfree Gum from Dry Mouth Relief and Tooth Decay Prevention; Elizabeth Gledhill
- British Dental Association; 3D Mouth- Salivary Glands; 2004
- TheraBreath; Scientists Link Tongue Brushing, Scraping to Freshened Breath; Harold Katz; March 2011
- Personal Health Zone; Cinnamon Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings; March 2010
- Wellness: Cinnamon
- Photo Credit Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
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