Can Gum Chewing Cause TMD?

chewing_gumDespite the many marvels of modern medicine, it’s surprising how many old wives’ tales continue to live on. “Feed a cold, starve a fever,” and “cracking knuckles will give one arthritis,” are but a few of the more common myths that have lived on for decades.

In reality, your immune system needs a lot of energy to battle infections, so loading up on nutrients is necessary with both a fever and a cold. And cracking one’s knuckles can possibly weaken the ligaments of the fingers and cause injuries, but there is no connection between that activity and arthritis.

Unfortunately, sufferers of TMJ disorders are also subject to myth and misinformation about the disease and its many symptoms. So let’s set the record straight. Does gum chewing cause TMJ pain?

The short answer is no. There is absolutely no connection between chewing gum and developing symptoms of TMD.


So is it okay to chew gum?

The answer again is no.  Here’s why:

In 2013 Tel Aviv University completed a study involving 30 adolescents. The results were published in the January 2014 Journal of Pediatric Neurology.

The participants in the study were mostly young girls, with a median age of 16. Five of the participants were young men.  But all 30 participants were sufferers of frequent migraine headaches. Each was extensively evaluated and underwent questioning on his or her past medical history, family history and gum-chewing habits. All of the study participants then discontinued chewing gum for 30 days.

A third of those participants discovered that gum chewing made no difference in their headache symptoms. The remaining 20 reported improved symptoms and fewer headaches.

Researchers concluded that discontinuing gum chewing might help with migraine symptoms, and the reasons why were rather obvious. Constant chewing placed excessive strain and fatigue on the temporomandibular joints. This in turn likely triggered migraine symptoms.

What does this mean for sufferers of TMJ disorders?

Avoiding gum can clearly do a lot to ease pain and discomfort. But very importantly, the study findings reveal absolutely nothing about the initial causes of TMD-like symptoms.

What this means for you

Avoid chewing gum. It overworks the temporomandibular joints and should be avoided as much as possible. But chewing gum did not cause your TMJ pain to begin with.

Remember that for many people, the initial of cause of TMJ disorders is unknown. And when we don’t feel well, it’s all too easy to confuse trigger points with causes. For instance, stress, poor diet, lack of sleep and bad posture are all factors that can make TMD symptoms worse. But that’s doesn’t mean these factors caused the disorder.

What should I do?

Remember, if you’re in doubt, ask a medical professional. Get the facts, not fiction.


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