Friday, December 20, 2013

Gum Chewing and Headaches

Gum chewing is occasionally recommended for children as part of a sensory diet therefore I thought this research regarding gum chewing and headaches was important to mention.  Pediatric Neurology will be publishing research on 30 patients between 6-19 years old who had chronic or migraine headaches and chewed gum daily.  The medical doctor, Dr. Watemburg, requested that the patients stop chewing gum for one month.  The following results were recorded:
  • 19 of the 30 patients reported that the headaches went away entirely
  • 7 of the 30 patients reported a decrease in frequency and intensity of headaches
To further test the results, 26 of the 30 patients resumed gum chewing for two weeks and all of them reported a return of their symptoms within days.

The researcher concluded that gum chewing causes an overuse of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) resulting in headaches. 

Now, this is a very small study but interesting.  I happen to be a gum chewer and never experience headaches from it.  But, I only chew gum for short periods of time several times per day.  In addition, when I have recommended gum chewing for children on a sensory diet or to improve focus, I have never had reports of headaches.  

Just some information to keep in the back of your mind after you recommend gum chewing for a child on a sensory diet.  Perhaps inform the parents that headaches may be a side effect of excessive gum chewing. 

How about you?  Do you find that children occasionally get headaches from chewing gum?

Reference: American Friends of Tel Aviv University (2013, December 19). Chewing gum is often culprit for migraine headaches in teens. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2013, from­ /releases/2013/12/131219130937.htm  


Eileen Richter said...

This IS interesting. All kinds of questions arise: what was it that motivated these kids to be chewing gum that much? One might suspect that these were people who needed heavy input for self regulation in the first place. There have been many studies showing that gum chewing increases focus, changes state and often results in better performance on tests. I haven't run across the connection to headaches, either. It is significant that this was a group that already had headaches. Therefore, it would be a mistake to generalize thesis findings to children who don't have headaches and chew gum.

I'd also want to know what kind of gum they were chewing - sugar free? (What chemicals, allergens, etc that might cause headaches); heavy resistive gum, I.e. Bubble gum? (Again, is there something in the gum rather than the chewing that is causing the headache?)

I agree this something to watch, but also, don't know how many of our kids would be chewing gum that much. Of course, when treating for modulation issues, gum chewing would only be one of many options we would encourage,

Unknown said...

This is interesting as it may be causing TMJ issues from prolonged gum chewing. I wonder if the kids would be otherwise grinding their teeth to get the same input without the gum. I have seen lots of kids who grind their teeth but were not able to manage gum as their oral motor skills prevented this.

Your Therapy Source Inc said...

Thank you for the comments Eileen and Pat.

Eileen - I agree 100% that we can not generalize these findings to all children who chew gum. It does bring up interesting questions though as you stated regarding other issues.

Pat - had not considered the grinding teeth issue. But interesting to me because the children who I have seen who grind their teeth usually have decreased oral motor skills. Some have been able to chew gum though (although does not always stay in the mouth) and works well as an alternative.

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