Chew On This
Children and teens who chew gum may be giving themselves headaches. That’s the surprising conclusion of a new study that looked at migraine and tension headaches among youngsters. Teenage girls are particularly likely to chew gum throughout the day. A researcher affiliated with Tel Aviv University identified 30 young patients being treated for daily migraine or tension headaches. All of these children, ranging in age from 6 to 19, were daily gum chewers.
He made a simple request: Stop chewing gum and report back to me. Remarkably, 26 out of 30 children reported immediate relief from headache. By no longer chewing gum, they were able to put a stop to their chronic headaches. Dr. Nathan Watemberg, of Meir Medical Center, notes that children are frequently afflicted with headaches, and they become even more common as children age, especially among teenage girls. He speculates that gum chewing places increased tension on the joint where the jaw meets the skull. This key joint, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), is known to trigger headaches when it’s overused.
In fact, a common condition, TMJ, takes its name from the joint. In this condition, patients suffer a number of complaints caused by unrelieved tension and stress on the joint due to unconscious teeth grinding and jaw clenching. Dentists often treat the condition by providing patients a night-guard; a device that separates the teeth, preventing the kind of grinding that can cause TMJ headaches. Dr. Watemberg believes that when kids chew gum, it irritates the TMJ, causing similar headaches. The cure is utterly simple: get kids to stop chewing and spit out the gum. Of course, not all headaches are related to gum chewing, but this overlooked trigger could provide a simple solution for parents seeking relief for their children who suffer from frequent headaches who are also frequent gum-chewers.
Nathan Watemberg, Manar Matar, Miki Har-Gil, Muhammad Mahajnah. The Influence of Excessive Chewing Gum Use on Headache Frequency and Severity Among Adolescents. Pediatric Neurology, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2013.08.015