Dr. Robert Cook - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Robert Cook

Is Bubble Gum Bad For You?

Also Known As: Gum, Chewing gum



Short answer

Chewing bubble gum with high sugar content can be detrimental to dental health, increasing the risk for cavities and periodontal disease due to plaque formation and enamel demineralization. Sugar-free gum with artificial sweeteners offers a safer alternative for teeth but may have other health implications, like digestive discomfort. Gum chewing impacts digestive function both positively and negatively and poses a choking risk, especially in children. Environmentally, traditional gum is non-biodegradable and polluting, but biodegradable options exist.



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Long answer

Sugar Content in Bubble Gum and Dental Health

Chewing bubble gum can be a fun and flavorful experience, often associated with childhood memories and moments of whimsy. However, when we peel back the wrapper and take a closer look at the sugar content in bubble gum, we see an area of concern for dental health. The relationship between sugar and dental health is complex and involves understanding the interaction between sugar, oral bacteria, and dental enamel.

How Sugar Affects Teeth:

  • Plaque Formation: Sugar in gum provides a readily available source of energy for bacteria living in the mouth. These bacteria produce plaque, a sticky substance that adheres to teeth.
  • Acid Production: The metabolism of sugar by oral bacteria results in the production of acids, which can erode tooth enamel, leading to cavities and tooth decay.
  • Enamel Demineralization: Over time, if the acid exposure is frequent due to regular chewing of sugary gum, the enamel can weaken, and demineralization can occur. This is the first step towards developing cavities.
  • Impact on Saliva Production: While chewing gum can stimulate saliva production, which is beneficial for oral health, the presence of sugar may negate these benefits by providing more substrate for bacteria.

Average Sugar Content in Bubble Gum:

Brand Sugar Content Per Piece
Brand A 10 grams
Brand B 8 grams
Brand C 12 grams
Average 10 grams

It's important to note that the average piece of bubble gum contains roughly the same amount of sugar as two teaspoons of granulated sugar. This amount of sugar contributes significantly to the daily limit recommended by the American Heart Association, which is no more than 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons) of added sugars for women, and 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons) for men.

Long-Term Dental Risks:

  • Cavities: Frequent consumption of sugary gum increases the risk of developing cavities, which, if left untreated, can progress to more serious dental issues.
  • Periodontal Disease: Over time, the presence of sugar and the consequent plaque formation may lead to periodontal disease, characterized by inflamed and receding gums.
  • Chronic Bad Breath: Sugar feeds the bacteria that can cause halitosis, commonly known as bad breath.
  • Structural Damage to Teeth: As sugar consumption continues, the teeth's structural integrity may be compromised, possibly resulting in broken teeth or the need for significant dental work.

Expert Opinions and Studies:

Various studies have highlighted the concerns surrounding sugar and dental health. For instance, research published in the Journal of Dental Research has shown a direct correlation between sugar consumption and tooth decay, even with fluoride use. Dental experts universally agree that reducing sugar intake is critical for maintaining oral health. The World Health Organization recommends reducing "free sugars" to less than 10% of total energy intake, with further benefits if reduced to below 5%.

In conclusion, understanding the sugar content in bubble gum is paramount when considering its impact on dental health. Chewing sugar-free gums with Xylitol, a sugar alcohol that bacteria are unable to metabolize, may offer a safer alternative for gum enthusiasts who are mindful about their oral health.

Artificial Sweeteners Used in Sugar-Free Gum

Chewing gum can be a delight for many, often acting as a breath freshener, a distraction from hunger, or even an aid in stress reduction. Sugar-free gum, in particular, is marketed as a healthier alternative to its sugary counterparts, primarily because it contains artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. However, it's important to dissect the types of artificial sweeteners used and understand their potential effects on our health.

The most common artificial sweeteners found in sugar-free gum include:

These sugar substitutes are popular because they are low-calorie and do not contribute to tooth decay, which is a considerable advantage. However, each of these sweeteners comes with unique properties and potential health concerns.

Aspartame is perhaps one of the most controversial artificial sweeteners, with studies yielding mixed results regarding its safety. The FDA considers aspartame safe for consumption, except for individuals with the genetic condition phenylketonuria (PKU). However, some studies and anecdotal reports suggest it may trigger headaches, dizziness, and gastrointestinal symptoms in some people. Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Sorbitol and mannitol belong to a category of sugar alcohols, which can have a laxative effect when consumed in large amounts. They are generally recognized as safe, but overconsumption can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort, including gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Source: International Journal of Dentistry.

Xylitol is another sugar alcohol often lauded for its dental benefits, such as reducing the risk of tooth decay and cavities. Preliminary research suggests that xylitol may also have prebiotic effects, encouraging the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. However, like other sugar alcohols, excessive intake can cause digestive issues. Source: Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dentistry

Sucralose, known by its brand name Splenda, is a non-nutritive sweetener that can withstand high temperatures, making it suitable for use in various food products. Some studies suggest that sucralose might have an impact on glycemic and insulin responses, particularly in individuals who do not consume it regularly. Its long-term health effects are not fully understood, with research ongoing. Source: Diabetes Care

Acesulfame K, also known as Ace-K, is another calorie-free sweetener commonly included in sugar-free gums. Some health experts have raised concerns about its potential to disrupt metabolic processes, though the available evidence has not conclusively proven it to be harmful when consumed within the FDA's acceptable daily intake levels. Nevertheless, it is frequently paired with other sweeteners to mask its slightly bitter aftertaste. Source: Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A

While the FDA has deemed these artificial sweeteners as generally safe for the general population, it's always recommended to be attentive to your own body's reactions and to consume them in moderation. Some individuals are more sensitive to these compounds and may experience negative effects even at smaller dosages.

On the flip-side, such sweeteners offer a reasonable substitute for sugar, especially for individuals managing diabetes or those mindful of their caloric intake. Nonetheless, it's crucial to remain informed about these sugar alternatives as ongoing research continues to evaluate their long-term consumption implications. Remember, just because a product is advertised as "sugar-free" doesn't necessarily mean it's a healthier choice for everyone.

Chewing Gum and its Effect on Digestive Function

The age-old question of whether chewing gum is detrimental to digestive function brings forth an intricate analysis of the human body's responses to this common habit. Chewing gum impacts several aspects of digestive physiology—some beneficial, others potentially troublesome.

1. Saliva Production: One immediate effect of chewing gum is the increase in saliva production. Saliva contains enzymes that begin the digestion of some carbohydrates right in the mouth. Moreover, the act of chewing and the subsequent swallowing of saliva can aid in digestion by helping to clear food particles and bacteria from the mouth, potentially reducing tooth decay and improving oral health.

2. Gastric Secretions: Chewing signals the body that food is about to enter the stomach, leading to an anticipatory response in gastric secretions. For some individuals, this may prime the digestive system for food processing; for others, particularly those with sensitive digestive systems or conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), the increase in stomach acid without the arrival of food could potentially aggravate symptoms.

3. Gut Motility: There is a body of evidence suggesting that chewing gum can positively influence gut motility and bowel function. For instance, a study published in The Journal of Gastroenterology found that chewing gum could expedite the return of bowel function after abdominal surgery, possibly reducing the length of hospital stays.

4. Potential Drawbacks: Despite these benefits, chewing gum is not free from possible negative effects. Artificial sweeteners commonly found in sugar-free gums, such as sorbitol, can cause digestive upset and laxative effects when consumed in excess. Furthermore, the act of chewing without the intake of food may lead to a sense of unfulfilled hunger, which could potentially influence overeating or choosing less nutritious snack options later.

5. Psychological Effects: From a psychological standpoint, chewing gum may ease stress and, by extension, stress-related digestive issues, as noted in research discussing the reduction of cortisol levels in gum chewers. However, it's also postulated that habitual gum chewing might contribute to the development or exacerbation of temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), which indirectly could affect eating habits and overall nutrition.

Given these factors, it's imperative to consider individual digestive health, dietary habits, and specific gum ingredients when assessing the effects of chewing gum on digestive function. Moderation is key, and for those with pre-existing digestive concerns, consultation with a healthcare professional is advised.

Potential Choking Hazards Associated with Bubble Gum

When discussing the safety of bubble gum, it is crucial to address a significant concern: the risk of choking. Chomping on a piece of bubble gum may seem innocuous, but it presents a hazard that cannot be overlooked, especially in certain populations:

  • Children: Youngsters, typically those under the age of five, are more prone to choking on bubble gum. Their chew-swallow coordination is not fully developed, and they may also be less aware of the risks associated with gum. The American Academy of Pediatrics includes chewing gum in its list of food items that can be potential choking hazards for children.
  • Distractions: When individuals are not focused on the act of chewing—perhaps they're multitasking or being physically active—they may inadvertently swallow gum, leading to choking. This can happen to both children and adults.
  • Overconsumption: People who attempt to chew large amounts of gum at once may find themselves struggling to manage the bulk, thereby increasing the risk of choking.
  • Sleeping with Gum: Accidentally falling asleep while chewing gum can result in gum becoming lodged in the throat. This could happen to anyone regardless of age and is a preventable risk.

Though actual choking incidents involving bubble gum may not be prevalent, the consequence of such an event can be severe. According to a review in the journal Pediatrics, chewing gum, along with balloons, are responsible for nearly 20% of choking episodes linked to food products.

To mitigate the risk of choking on bubble gum, consider the following precautions:

  • Supervision: Always supervise young children when they are chewing gum. Make sure they understand the importance of chewing carefully and sitting down while enjoying their gum.
  • Chew Responsibly: Whether adult or child, chew only a reasonable amount of gum at any one time and resist the urge to perform vigorous activities while chewing.
  • Educate on Proper Usage: Ensuring everyone, especially children, are aware of the dangers of blowing excessively large bubbles or attempting stunts with bubble gum can decrease the likelihood of a choking accident.
  • Abstain While Sleeping: Avoid the practice of going to bed with gum in your mouth to prevent any unexpected risks.

While the enjoyment of blowing bubbles and the taste of bubble gum are not to be understated, it is important to chew with caution. Being aware of the environments and manners in which we enjoy our bubble gum can be key to preventing choking incidents, allowing us to savor the pleasure of this sweet treat safely.

Environmental Impact of Gum Disposal and Biodegradability

When we wrangle with the question of whether bubble gum is bad for you, it's not just our health we need to consider but also the health of our environment. The disposal and biodegradability of gum are key factors in assessing its environmental footprint. Let's chew over the facts.

Non-Biodegradable Components: Traditional bubble gum is made from a synthetic rubber base, which is a form of plastic and is non-biodegradable. This means it does not break down easily in the environment and can persist for many years.

Litter and Wildlife: Often, gum is disposed of improperly — spat out onto the streets, stuck under tables or chairs. This behavior turns gum into litter that not only creates an unsightly mess but also poses a risk to wildlife. Animals may mistake gum for food, which can lead to intestinal blockages, choking, and other health issues.

Urban Cleanup Challenges: The sticky nature of gum makes it quite a challenge for urban cleanup crews. Removing gum from public spaces is time-consuming and often requires the use of chemicals or power-washing equipment, which in turn can have environmental repercussions.

  • Gum residue on streets may require specialized removal services.
  • Chemicals used in the gum removal process can enter waterways.
  • The carbon footprint of cleaning operations to remove gum is not trivial.

Biodegradable Alternatives: In response to the environmental concerns, some manufacturers have developed gum made from chicle, a natural gum base derived from sapodilla trees, and other biodegradable ingredients. While these options are more environmentally friendly, they are not yet widespread.

Attribute Traditional Bubble Gum Biodegradable Gum
Base Material Synthetic Rubber Chicle or Other Natural Substances
Environmental Persistence Decades to disintegrate Faster decomposition
Wildlife Safety Potentially harmful if ingested Less hazardous
Clean-up Difficult and resource-heavy Easier and more sustainable

The conversation about gum and the environment extends beyond littering habits to the very ingredients that bubble gum is composed of. Although not largely discussed, the ecological footprint of gum production and disposal is something that consumers, manufacturers, and policymakers must take into account. New biodegradable options offer hope, but it also requires consumer demand and awareness for broader change to take place.

In conclusion, the environmental impact of gum disposal cannot be overlooked. While it may be a small component of larger environmental issues, it is one where simple changes in habits and choices can have a cumulative positive effect.

Frequently asked questions

Chewing gum can have several digestive benefits including increased saliva production which can aid in initial digestion of carbohydrates, as well as improved gut motility and bowel function. However, individuals with sensitive digestive systems should be cautious, as artificial sweeteners in some gums can cause gastrointestinal discomfort.

Chewing gum, especially sugar-free gum, can stimulate saliva production, which helps wash away food particles and neutralize acids produced by bacteria in your mouth. This can reduce the risk of tooth decay and enhance your oral health overall.

To safely enjoy bubble gum, always supervise young children when they chew gum, chew a reasonable amount at a time, educate on the dangers of blowing excessively large bubbles, and never chew gum while sleeping or engaged in vigorous activities to minimize the risk of choking.

Yes, chewing sugarless gum is generally better for your dental health. Unlike regular gum with high sugar content that feeds decay-causing bacteria, sugarless gum typically contains sugar alcohols like xylitol which do not promote tooth decay and can even reduce the risk of cavities.

Ask a question about Bubble Gum and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • acidic saliva
  • plaque buildup
  • gastrointestinal discomfort
  • increased hunger
  • potential choking hazard
  • laxative effect
  • possible allergic reactions
  • dental erosion
  • halitosis
  • increased gastric secretions
  • stress on temporomandibular joint

Possible long-term side effects

  • cavities
  • periodontal disease
  • exacerbated digestive disorders
  • potential metabolic disruption
  • compromised dental integrity
  • temporomandibular joint disorders
  • environmental pollution due to gum litter

Ingredients to be aware of

  • aspartame
  • sorbitol
  • mannitol
  • sucralose
  • acesulfame k
  • non-biodegradable synthetic rubber


  • increased saliva production
  • reduced tooth decay (with xylitol)
  • improved gut motility
  • reduced cortisol levels
  • potential prebiotic effects
  • appetite suppression

Healthier alternatives

  • sugar-free gum with xylitol
  • natural biodegradable gum
  • gum made from chicle

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

PUR Aspartame Free Gum

  • 100% Xylitol sweetened
  • Sugar-free gum
  • Vegan and Gluten-free
  • Keto-friendly choice
  • Natural Spearmint flavor
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-09-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-09-2024

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