Hello and welcome to another edition of “Gum and Gummer!” Last blog we spoke about chewing gum and whether in fact it had any merit. Today we want to explore the topic a little bit further but also thought it might be fun to take a brief look at the history of chewing gum. Brinkley Dental, located in Brampton and known as the “family-friendly Dental team” occasionally likes to mix things up a bit. After all, talking about teeth all day long while fascinating, might lead to a tooth obsession so chatting about chewing seemed like a great diversion. Without further ado, everything you ever wanted to know about gum.
The history of chewing gum extends back significantly farther than you might think. Evidence in Finland shows that chewing gum may actually have existed as long ago as 6,000 years! At that time, it is thought that chewing a substance that was derived from birch bark tar may actually have had anti-septic and medicinal properties. Both the Ancient Aztecs and the Ancient Greeks also had a gum-like substance used for both chewing and for its sticking properties. The Aztecs used “chicle” a natural tree gum and the Greeks, the resin from the mastic tree. Similar practices are thought to have existed across a broad spectrum of ancient cultures.
Closer to home, the North American Indians chewed on a resin made from the sap of spruce trees. Early settlers, particularly those from the New England area, picked up the practice and the first commercial chewing gum was made in and around 1848. From these early roots, chewing gum has taken off and is now an almost 4 billion dollar a year industry! (Statistics from 2015) Flavoured gum surfaced around 1860 and one of the first “brands” to surface that is still available today was “Chiclets.”
Modern chewing gum is largely made from butadiene-based synthetic rubber and most are considered polymers. They contain ingredients like xylitol and sorbitol. Xylitol is considered a “safe” sweetener since it’s a naturally occurring one. Sorbitol is made from corn syrup and then there is aspartame and other artificial sweeteners added to gum, the safety of which is questioned by some. Currently, they are considered safe in the levels of exposure likely to be experienced by the average consumer.
Chewing gum is said to have many benefits. These include claims of helping to boost brain function, help with or mask the effects of halitosis and of course, helping to “clean” teeth in terms of removing bacteria after meals when tooth brushing is not feasible or available, as discussed in our last blog. There are several known cases of gum causing intestinal issues (you can find anything on the internet!) but for the most part, it is considered a relatively safe and harmless activity. In the absence of an available toothbrush – chew away! That’s it for today and we hope you’ve enjoyed this episode. The Brinkley Dental family is always available to address all your dental questions and concerns and reminds you as always, ”don’t forget to be a BFF with your mouth and Brush that SMILE!”
*with Wikipedia and other sources.