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What Happens When You Swallow Gum?

Orthodontist Baton Rouge Orthodontist

Most of us grew up hearing warnings from our parents, teachers, and even friends that if we swallowed our chewing gum, it would stay in our stomachs for seven years. Sounds scary, right? What’s the reality behind this popular myth? Frugé Orthodontics reveals the truth behind what happens when you swallow gum and the potential implications it might have on your oral and overall health.

The Journey of Swallowed Gum

The fear-inducing image of gum sticking to your insides for seven years is, fortunately, just a tale. Your body is remarkably efficient and has a well-organized system to deal with ingested substances, even something as stubborn as chewing gum.

The process starts in your mouth where saliva begins to break down the food. Chewing gum is resilient to this initial process due to its synthetic components. It's created to withstand the assault of our oral enzymes, which is why it doesn't dissolve like regular food.

Upon swallowing, the gum travels down your esophagus and lands in your stomach. Here, strong stomach acids and digestive enzymes continue the breakdown process, dealing with proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. However, they struggle with the gum base, the component that gives gum its chewiness.

Despite this, your body doesn't just let the gum sit in your stomach. The muscular actions of your digestive system push the gum along with other waste materials into your intestines. From there, it's escorted out of your body when you visit the bathroom. This entire process typically takes a few days to a week, far from the seven-year myth.

Does Swallowing Gum Affect Your Dental Health?

Although swallowing gum doesn't have severe implications for your overall health, it can potentially impact your dental health. Consistent gum chewing can lead to jaw muscle imbalance and TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders, a condition that causes pain in your jaw joint and in the muscles that control jaw movement. Chewing gum also stimulates saliva production, which, while good for washing away food particles and bacteria, can, in excess, lead to digestive issues.

Orthodontically speaking, chewing gum can wreak havoc on braces, retainers, and other dental appliances. It can stick to the hardware, potentially damaging it and disrupting treatment progress.

Is Swallowing Gum Dangerous?

Swallowing gum occasionally is not harmful. However, habitual gum swallowing could potentially cause intestinal blockages, particularly in children. To avoid any complications, it's best to dispose of your gum responsibly in a trash bin, rather than swallowing it.

Proper oral hygiene practices are essential to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Regular dental check-ups, brushing twice a day, flossing, and limiting sugary foods will help you achieve and maintain optimal dental health.

The Truth About Swallowing Chewing Gum

Swallowing gum won't cause it to stick in your stomach for seven years. While not particularly dangerous, it's not recommended as a habitual practice. As always, maintaining a balanced diet and proper oral hygiene routine is the key to good oral health.

Remember, taking care of your teeth is not just about maintaining a beautiful smile, but it's also about promoting overall health. It's vital to trust your dental care to experienced professionals like the team at Frugé Orthodontics. Reach out to us today via phone or email for an appointment to look after the health of your teeth!