Health Watch -- Gum Chewing

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Something you do to help relieve stress may end up making you feel tired and sore.
Chewing gum can be a great way to relieve stress - especially for former smokers or people on a diet. Chewing the gum releases pent-up energy. But chew gum too vigorously or too often and you could end up with jaw problems, according to oral surgeons at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

Dr. Douglas Sinn, a UT Southwestern oral surgeon, says constant gum chewing can tire your jaws. It can lead to muscle fatigue, muscle spasms and pain. It may even lead to a syndrome called T-M-J that causes pain in the head or neck and may make it difficult to open and close the jaw properly.

Ironically, the more stress you're under when you chew gum, the more stress you may be putting on your jaws. When you're stressed, you're likely to chew harder and more vigorously, which leaves your jaw even more tired and stressed. Dr. Sinn says that can create a vicious cycle.

If your jaw gets sore, try giving it a break from the gum for a while. If the soreness doesn't ease, you may need to talk to your dentist. Pain in the jaw, neck and head or a clicking sound when you open and close your mouth could be signs of T-M-J syndrome.

Instead of relying on chewing gum, look for additional ways to relieve stress, such as exercise, squeezing a stress ball, meditation or other relaxation techniques.