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Monday, November 2, 2015

Dental News: Chewing Gum Linked to Headaches in Teens/Children

Headaches are quite common in children, and tend to become more frequent during the teen years, especially among girls. These headaches are claimed to be triggered by stress, sunlight, video games, noise, skipped meals, smoking, lack of sleep, and menstruation.
chewing gum linked to headaches in childrenA 2013 publication in the November 4th Pediatric Neurology Journal suggested that there is a connection between chewing gum and migraines and tension headaches. According to the case study by Dr. Nathan Watemberg of Meir Medical Center, which is affiliated to Tel Aviv University, headaches caused by chewing gum should cease once children and teenagers stop doing it, without requiring costly tests or medicines.
Events Leading Up to the Study
Before the study, Dr. Watemberg had observed that many patients who reported headaches also chewed gum on a daily basis. He also observed that teenage girl patients were more avid chewers, corroborating findings by previous dental studies. When he suggested that patients stop chewing gum, Dr. Watemberg noticed that those patients got considerably better.
Analysis of the Study
For a more statistical analysis, Dr. Watemberg asked 30 patients between the ages of 6 and 19 years with chronic migraine or tension headaches, and also chewed gum every day, to stop chewing for one month. These patients had chewed gum for between one and six hours per day.
One month after they had quit chewing gum, 26 of the patients reported considerable improvement, with reduced frequency and intensity of headaches. 19 of the 26 reported complete headache resolution when they stopped chewing.
To test the results, 20 of the improved youngsters later went back to chewing gum, resulting in an immediate relapse of symptoms within days.
Revelations from Other Studies
There have been two other studies linking headaches to gum chewing, though they offered different explanations. One of the studies suggested that chewing gum causes stress to the TMJ, or temporomandibular joint, where the jaw connects to the skull, while the other study claimed that aspartame, the artificial sweetener used in popular chewing gums, is responsible for the headaches.
Research has shown a connection between TMJ dysfunction and headaches, though none has been found between headaches and aspartame.
In Conclusion
Dr. Watemberg is more inclined to the TMJ explanation than the aspartame one. Considering that gum is only sweet for a short period of time, it cannot possibly contain much aspartame to cause headaches. Furthermore, if aspartame was the cause of headaches from chewing gum, there would more severe headaches from consuming diet drinks and other artificially sweetened products.

On the other hand, people continue to chew gum long after the sweetness is gone, exerting considerable pressure on the TMJ, which is already the most used joint in a human's body. Doctors agree that overuse of the TMJ causes headaches, and Dr. Watemberg also believes that this is what causes headaches when children and teens chew gum excessively.

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