Some people who have tension in their jaw chew gum, because they think it relieves the tension.  Well, it does and doesn’t, according to oral surgeons at UT Southwester Medical Center at Dallas.

Chewing gum may be a stress reliever of choice for some, but according to Dr. Douglass Sinn, a UT Southwestern oral surgeon,

Constant gum chewing can tire your jaws. It can lead to muscle fatigue, muscle spasms and pain. It may even lead to a syndrome called T-M-J that causes pain in the head or neck and may make it difficult to open and close the jaw properly.”

Signs of TMJ syndrome include:

  • pain in the jaw, neck and head
  • a clicking sound when you open and close your mouth

The medical center suggests looking for other ways to relieve stress: “exercise, squeezing a stress ball, meditation and other relaxation techniques.”  Read this previous post on acupressure and yoga-based ways to relax the jaw.

And, of course, with most things, chewing gum for a short time once in a while is likely safe.  Pay attention, and your body will tell you if it’s an OK amount of activity.