Throughout the animal kingdom, there is an assortment of critters that can unhinge their jaws to consume their meals in one slow and deadly bit. However, humans have to rely on the process of crushing and breaking down their food with their teeth and if done incorrectly, the process can cause dental problems. While chewing is a basic instinct, what humans chew on and how they conduct the task can result in a myriad of dental health issues. Problems including Cracked teeth, Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ), tooth decay can all be negatively impacted with the simple act of improper mastication.
In America, bigger is often equated with being better. That belief is prevalent in every industry and restaurants are no exception to the rule. Supersizing has become the norm; results of a 2002 study indicates that the average steak is 144 percent bigger than the USDA recommends and the average muffin is 233 percent bigger than the options sold during the good old days (MSNBC.com). That fact is a leading contributor of obesity and dental health issues. Larger portions are made up of bigger pieces of food and humans who open their mouths too wide to accommodate the treats are putting their jaws and teeth at risk.
TMJ (AKA TMD) is a medical condition that affects how the jaw joints, facial muscles, facial nerves and surrounding tissues function. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that about 10 million Americans are affected by TMJ. While the condition can affect everyone, women in their childbearing years account for 90 percent of all TMJ sufferers (1-800-DENTIST). Disease symptoms vary greatly, but some common side effects include chronic jaw pain, facial pain, earaches and neck pains. Taking anything bigger than an acceptable bite size can overtaxed the chewing mechanisms. When that occurs, TMJ conditions can be exasperated causing great discomfort or even lockjaw.
Proper nutrition is essential to those interested in establishing both dental health and general well being. Although treats like hard candies, unpopped popcorn kernels and ice may be tasty, chewing on the dense fare can increase the risk of cracking or chipping teeth.
Although teeth may look impermeable, the devices are constructed of an intricate and fragile network of enamel, dentin, cementum and pulp. Aggressively chomping on hard surfaces can increase the odds of tooth enamel breaking off and can result in the destruction both natural teeth and costly restoration work.
Estimates suggest that Americans chew approximately 300 pieces of gum on an annual basis. The repetitive chewing motion of the process can aggravate TMJ. Additionally, sugar-laden gums can increase the odds of developing tooth decay and cavities. However, consumers with healthy jaws and whom wisely select the right sugar-free gum can actually lower the odds of developing dental problems.
Chewing gum increases saliva production and that liquid is the body's natural defense for washing away food debris and simple sugars left behind after eating. This benefit is only associated with chewing sugar-free gum and the American Dental Association recommends getting your chew on for 20 minutes after eating a meal to get the oral health benefits.
Consumers interested in learning more about how chewing can impact their dental health should consult their dentist for personalized advice. For those without a dental care practitioner on their team, 1-800-DENTIST can provide the name of a great local dentist that has been screened prior to being approved for group membership status.