THE QUESTION Can frequent gum-chewing trigger headaches in children and teens?
THIS STUDY included 30 youths, 6 to 19 years old (average age, 13), who had had chronic or recurring tension or migraine headache for up to four years and who chewed gum daily, sometimes for several hours. After they all stopped chewing gum for a month, headaches were less frequent and less severe in seven participants and had stopped altogether in 19 youths. The other four noted no change. Of those who had experienced complete or partial headache relief, 20 started chewing gum again. Two weeks later, all 20 said that their headaches had returned within a few days to a week.
WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Youths who chew gum often. The study researchers suggested that the headaches stemmed from overuse of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which connects the lower jaw to the skull and allows the movement needed to chew, among other things. TMJ disorders can cause jaw, ear and facial pain, headaches and clicking, popping or locking of the jaw.
CAVEATS Data on headaches came from interviews with the youths. The study had a fairly small number of participants.
FIND THIS STUDY January issue of Pediatric Neurology.
The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.