Apr 27 2022

Should you allow your child to chew gum?

young girl making a bubble from chewing gum

Children are curious creatures. Maybe your kid noticed gum in your mouth, saw a child chewing gum in a famous family flick, or was given a piece of gum at school—and now they are intrigued. If you’re hesitant about letting your child chew gum, Dr. Matt answers parents’ top questions about their children chewing gum in this guide.

When can my child chew gum?

Let’s face it. It’s no secret that infants and toddlers require extra monitoring of eating habits. Sometimes, very young children are tempted to swallow things that they shouldn’t, including toothpaste, small toys, and (you guessed it) gum.

Because gum can be a choking hazard for young children, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not allowing children under 5 to chew gum. At the age of 5, children can be taught the concept of chewing something without swallowing it. Generally, it’s wise to start with a half stick of gum to avoid choking if the gum is inadvertently ingested.

How long does gum stay in the digestive tract?

Gum is designed to be tasty! After chewing on it for quite some time, your child may be enticed to swallow something that tastes so delicious.

Folklore suggests that gum stays in your stomach for seven years before being digested. Luckily, this is an exaggeration and is generally safe if swallowed, even in extreme cases. After eating, most people pass the contents of their stomachs (including chewing gum) 30 to 120 minutes later.

However, the gum base is insoluble, which means the human body does not possess the digestive enzymes that specifically break down gum. Like raw vegetables, seeds, and corn, the gum will eventually evacuate the body the same way it does any other food.

While the gum base shouldn’t usually damage the digestive system, sweeteners in sugar-free gum can cause headaches, diarrhea, and nausea if swallowed in significant quantities.

Which type of chewing gum is the best?

Not all gum is created equal. Although gum with sugar can be flavorful, it’s terrible for the teeth. As your child chews sugary gum, the sugar wears down enamel while feeding cavity-causing bacteria. Therefore, it’s ideal to avoid sugary varieties altogether.

Instead, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends sugar-free gum with the ADA seal of approval. Gums with the ADA seal help fight cavities instead of inducing them!

Are there any health benefits or risks associated with chewing gum?

Chewing gum is more than just something fun for kids to do. You may be surprised to discover that chewing gum in moderation comes with many health benefits, including:

  • Reducing the risk of cavities
  • Increasing salivary flow and volume
  • Easing symptoms of acid reflux
  • Burning energy
  • Improving memory
  • Fighting sleepiness
  • Eliminating motion sickness

That being said, chewing gum in moderation is crucial. Additionally, excessive gum chewing and swallowing can lead to:

  • Mouth sores (ulcers)
  • Digestive tract issues
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders

Ask the Children’s Dentistry Experts at Smiles Dentistry for Kids

When it comes to your child’s health, no question is too big, small, or silly for Dr. Matt to answer. Come to your child’s next dental appointment with your questions and leave with a smile and satisfaction. Call 913-685-9990 or message us online to book a children’s dental appointment in Overland Park, KS.

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