Chewing Gum: A Habit to Stick with?

Chewing Gum: A Habit to Stick with?

Chewing gum is a multi-million dollar industry and an everyday activity for many people worldwide. It is linked to relaxation, increased attention and improvements in dental health. However, many see it as an unpleasant habit, a source of litter and a social faux pas at times. Chewing gum has a range of uses these days. Let's go through some of these and see if they have any merit, or if this product and its supposed roles in health and wellbeing really aren't to be swallowed.


Chewing gum is globally marketed as an aid to dental hygiene, to prevent cavities, and reduce or eliminate gum disease and other conditions affecting the mouth or teeth. It is thought to enhance natural salivary defences that act to reduce the effect of acidic foodstuffs on teeth1. A recent study of gum disease found that chewing sugar-free gum significantly reduced plaque and gum bleeding compared to normal gum in the absence of regular tooth-cleaning, but not in comparison with brushing2. However, a review of several hundred studies concluded that the chewing of sugar-free gum in combination with brushing had a small significant effect on plaque, but had none on gum disease, and had no effect as an alternative to brushing3.  On the other hand, some research has found that gum-chewing is associated with some improvement in halitosis (bad breath)4.


The act of chewing gum is thought to aid attention. Some studies have in fact found a correlation between gum-chewing and increases in some components of alertness5,6. Another study found that chewing gum was associated with improvements in subjective (or self-assessed) performance at work7. There is also some evidence that chewing gum may improve some aspects of memory8. However, some scientists claim that gum-chewing may impair short-term memory, and has a negative effect on the ability to memorize sequences9.


Gum-chewing may also have an effect on emotional and psychological stressors. Chewing gum has also been shown to reduce fatigue, stress and negative mood7. A recent study found some increases in feelings of contentment and calmness as a result of chewing gum. Other research indicates that gum-chewing may also reduce some measures of social anxiety10. There is also some evidence that it may help to alleviate some symptoms of depression, in combination with other treatments11.


Some brands of gum are designed to contain nicotine, in order to provide a slow release of controlled doses of this drug and thus help to reduce or quit smoking12. Research has shown that gum is as effective a nicotine replacement therapy as patches or inhalers13,14. Nicotine in this form also reduces appetite, even in non-smokers15. This may help prevent weight gain, which is a common concern for those who wish to quit smoking14.


The chewing of gum may have other benefits in terms of medicine and medical science. Many types of abdominal surgeries, such as Caesarean sections, are associated with nausea, decreased appetite and ability to eat normally after these procedures16,17. Chewing gum has been shown to help with these complications18.


So there you have it. Gum-chewing does have some positive effects, although its psychological effects may outweigh those on your dental health.






1.      de Alencar CRB, Magalhães AC, de Andrade Moreira Machado MA, de Oliveira TM, Honório HM, Rios D. In situ effect of a commercial CPP-ACP chewing gum on the human enamel initial erosion. J Dent. 2014;42(11):1502-1507.

2.      Keukenmeester RS, Slot DE, Rosema NAM, Van Loveren C, Van der Weijden GA. Effects of sugar-free chewing gum sweetened with xylitol or maltitol on the development of gingivitis and plaque: a randomized clinical trial. Int J Dent Hyg. 2014;12(4):238-244.

3.      Keukenmeester RS, Slot DE, Putt MS, Van der Weijden GA. The effect of sugar-free chewing gum on plaque and clinical parameters of gingival inflammation: a systematic review. Int J Dent Hyg. 2013;11(1):2-14.

4.      De Luca-Monasterios F, Chimenos-Küstner E, López-López J. [Effect of chewing gum on halitosis]. Med Clin (Barc). 2014;143(2):64-67.

5.      Allen AP, Jacob TJC, Smith AP. Effects and after-effects of chewing gum on vigilance, heart rate, EEG and mood. Physiol Behav. 2014;133:244-251.

6.      Allen AP, Smith AP. Effects of chewing gum and time-on-task on alertness and attention. Nutr Neurosci. 2012;15(4):176-185.

7.      Smith AP, Chaplin K, Wadsworth E. Chewing gum, occupational stress, work performance and wellbeing. An intervention study. Appetite. 2012;58(3):1083-1086.

8.      Davidson MG. Herbal-caffeinated chewing gum, but not bubble gum, improves aspects of memory. Appetite. 2011;57(1):303-307.

9.      Kozlov MD, Hughes RW, Jones DM. Gummed-up memory: chewing gum impairs short-term recall. Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2012;65(3):501-513.

10.    Sketchley-Kaye K, Jenks R, Miles C, Johnson AJ. Chewing gum modifies state anxiety and alertness under conditions of social stress. Nutr Neurosci. 2011;14(6):237-242.

11.    Erbay FM, Ayd?n N, Sat?-K?rkan T. Chewing gum may be an effective complementary therapy in patients with mild to moderate depression. Appetite. 2013;65:31-34.

12.    Hite WC, Batheja M, Sadatrezaei M, Inventors; WATSON LAB INC, assignee. Stabilized Nicotine Chewing Gum. 2008/11/25/Application date, 2008.

13.    Shiffman S, Sembower MA, Rohay JM, Gitchell JG, Garvey AJ. Assigning dose of nicotine gum by time to first cigarette. Nicotine Tob Res. 2013;15(2):407-412.

14.    Jiloha RC. Pharmacotherapy of smoking cessation. Indian J Psychiatry. 2014;56(1):87-95.

15.    Pilhatsch M, Scheuing H, Kroemer N, et al. Nicotine administration in healthy non-smokers reduces appetite but does not alter plasma ghrelin. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2014;29(4):384-387.

16.    Craciunas L, Sajid MS, Ahmed AS. Chewing gum in preventing postoperative ileus in women undergoing caesarean section: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BJOG. 2014;121(7):793-799; discussion 799.

17.    Jernigan AM, Chen CCG, Sewell C. A randomized trial of chewing gum to prevent postoperative ileus after laparotomy for benign gynecologic surgery. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2014;127(3):279-282.

18.    Li S, Liu Y, Peng Q, Xie L, Wang J, Qin X. Chewing gum reduces postoperative ileus following abdominal surgery: a meta-analysis of 17 randomized controlled trials. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2013;28(7):1122-1132.