Excessive Headaches? Stop Chewing Gum

Orthodontics - April 30, 2014 - Vol. 28 - No. 5

The discontinuation of excessive gum chewing can effectively eliminate chronic headaches in some adolescents.

Article Reviewed: The Influence of Excessive Chewing Gum Use on Headache Frequency and Severity Among Adolescents. Watemberg N, Matar M et al: Pediatr Neurol; 2014;50 (January): 69-72.

Background: It is not uncommon for adolescents to suffer from chronic migraine or tension headaches. Is there something that we might be able to do to help them?

Objective: To assess the impact of excessive gum chewing on headache occurrence among children and adolescents.

Participants: 30 subjects who reported chronic headaches and excessive gum chewing.

Methods: The sample was divided into 4 groups based on the amount of gum chewing per day. Group 1 was up to 1 hour; group 2, 1 to 3 hours; group 3, 3 to 6 hours; and group 4 >6 hours per day. All of the patients were asked to stop gum chewing for 1 month. At that point, their symptoms were evaluated and they were asked to renew their gum chewing habit exactly as it was before discontinuation; a second interview was carried out 2 to 4 weeks later.

Results: Following the discontinuation of gum chewing, 19 of the 30 patients reported complete resolution of headaches and 7 described some improvement in headache frequency and intensity. No improvement occurred in 4 patients. The duration of the headache symptoms before stopping gum chewing did not play a role in the clinical response because some children who reported full or significant improvement had suffered from chronic headache for up to 6 years. All 20 of the patients who reported either complete or partial headache relief reported relapse of their headaches within days to a week of resuming gum chewing. Ten of the 30 patients in this study reported chronic symptoms related to the temporomandibular joint, and these symptoms also improved upon gum chewing discontinuation.

Conclusions: The discontinuation of excessive gum chewing can effectively eliminate chronic headaches in some adolescents.

Reviewer's Comments: This is a clean-cut and impressive study that provides an opportunity to provide a significant service to our patients. Imagine being able to help a patient who has suffered from chronic headaches for 6 years to eliminate these symptoms by simply discontinuing gum chewing.(Reviewer–John S. Casko, DDS, MS, PhD).

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