Migraines in Teens and Kids Might Be Associated With Gum Chewing

Teens and children who suffer from frequent migraines or tension headaches and frequently chew gum might be able to ease their pain by giving up the gum chewing habit, according to a recent study.

Nathan Watemberg, M.D., chairman of the Child Development Institute and the Child Neurology Unit at Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, Israel, and a professor at Tel Aviv University School of Medicine, conducted the small study. His findings were published in the journal Pediatric Neurology.

Dr. Watemberg asked 30 patients between six and 19 years old who had chronic migraine or tension headaches and chewed gum daily to quit chewing gum for one month. Participants reported chewing gum between one and six or more hours per day.

After a month without gum, 19 of the 30 patients said that their headaches went away entirely and seven reported a decrease in the frequency and intensity of headaches. To test the results, 26 of them agreed to resume gum chewing for two weeks. All of them reported a return of their symptoms within days.

Researchers noted that one previous study suggests gum chewing can lead to headaches because of stress placed on the temporomandibular joint, while another study suggests the aspartame in gum leads to headaches. However, Dr. Watemberg said he thinks the likely reason for the headache-gum-chewing link is the stress on the temporomandibular joint.

“Every doctor knows that overuse of the TMJ will cause headaches,” Dr. Watemberg said in a statement. “I believe this is what’s happening when children and teenagers chew gum excessively.”

According to MouthHealthy.org, the ADA’s consumer website, clinical studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following meals can help prevent tooth decay.

Chewing sugarless gum increases the flow of saliva, which washes away food and other debris, neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth and provides disease-fighting substances throughout the mouth. Increased saliva flow also carries with it more calcium and phosphate to help strengthen tooth enamel.

Several varieties of sugarless gum have ADA Seal. They are sweetened by non-cavity causing sweeteners such as aspartame, xylitol, sorbitol or mannitol.

Don’t let chewing sugarless gum replace brushing and flossing. It’s not a substitute. The ADA still recommends brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and cleaning plaque from between your teeth once a day with dental floss or other interdental cleaners.

For more details, visit MouthHealthy.org.

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