Here's What Happens When You Chew Gum Every Day

Chewing gum is fun! Popping bubbles might make you feel like a kid again, and let's be honest...if you have gum in your mouth, there's no room for Girl Scout cookies, Cheetos, or other foods you'd probably be better off skipping. The gooey goodness is a godsend if you're trying to quit smoking, and it sure comes in handy if you've eaten something garlicky for lunch. But is it actually healthy for you to chew gum every day?

We posed this question to Whitney DiFoggio, RDH, BS, registered dental hygienist and founder of Teeth Talk Girl, and her answer was, essentially, "it depends." As DiFoggio explained to Mashed, "If you are chewing gum daily, depending on the type of gum, it can either be beneficial or detrimental to your mouth...two polar opposite effects!" So, we should either be chomping on gum like there's no tomorrow or avoiding it altogether? DiFoggio elaborated on what makes some types of gum great for you, while she popped the bubble on other popular gum options.

You might either cause or prevent cavities, depending on the gum

According to DiFoggio, it all comes down to whether the gum is sugar-free. "If the gum contains sugar, chewing gum daily is a way to give yourself cavities," she explained. "When sugar sits on your teeth for a prolonged amount of time, the acids in your mouth start to create small holes on the tooth enamel (demineralization) which leads to tooth decay – aka cavities." So, no Hubba Bubba for you!

Gum that is sugar-free, on the other hand, is actually great for your teeth, DiFoggio said. "If the gum does not contain sugar, chewing gum daily could actually be a way to prevent cavities," she explained. "Chewing sugarless gum after meals can promote saliva production, which in turn can neutralize the acidity in your mouth. This extra saliva neutralizing your mouth can reduce the risk of getting cavities." Chewing gum with sugar in it also promotes extra saliva, of course, "but, remember, when that extra saliva is mixed with sugar-filled gum, that has the opposite effect," DiFoggio explained.

You could hurt your jaw

If you enjoy chewing gum and aren't averse to Trident or another sugar-free brand, it should seem like a no-brainer: chew to your heart's content, and just avoid the kind with sugar. There is one caveat, though, according to DiFoggio. Gum-chewing is a bad idea if you are prone to any sort of jaw pain. "Whether you choose sugar-filled gum or sugarless gum, you also have to consider your jaw," DiFoggio explained. "The constant chewing motion can be detrimental to the health of your jaw if you've suffered from TMJ issues in the past or notice yourself clenching or grinding your teeth at night."

TMJ stands for "temporomandibular joint," which joins your jaw to your skull (per the Mayo Clinic). People who have TMJ disorders may have inherited this problem from their parents, but injuries and arthritis might also cause this condition. Regardless of the cause, that bubblegum habit is bad news, DiFoggio noted. "Daily gum chewing is probably not the best idea if you have any concerns related to your jaw," she said.