Chewing chewing gum
Chewing gum has been around for many thousands of years.
- Ancient Greeks chewed the gum from the mastic tree.
- Ancient Mayans (in South America) chewed chicle which was made from the sap of the sapodilla tree.
- North American Indians chewed sap from spruce trees.
- Chewing gum was made and sold in America from 1848, but it was very different to the gum we know today. It was made from spruce gum.
- Mr Thomas Adams first introduced chewing gum made out of chicle in 1871.
- Many changes have since been made like adding flavours, making the flavour last longer and using an artificial gum made from rubber rather than chicle.
We can now buy sugar-free gum, bubble gum which will make big bubbles, and people trying to stop smoking can use gum which has nicotine in it!
What is in chewing gum?
- Nowadays a man made gum base is used in chewing gum in many places, but chicle is still used in some countries.
- Glycerine and other vegetable oils keep the gum soft enough for chewing.
- Some gums are sweetened by sugar cane, beet sugar or corn syrup. Chewing these gums could cause tooth damage.
- Other sugar-free gums use artificial sweeteners which will not harm teeth.
- The most popular flavour for chewing gum is mint because it leaves a fresh taste in the mouth.
- Some gums use fruit or spice essences for flavour.
- Some gums use colourings to show the flavour of the gum.
- Look on the side of the packet to find out exactly which ingredients are in your favourite gum.
Why chew gum?
Why do people chew gum?
When we asked some kids this question we got these answers.
- It helps me to concentrate.
- It stops my mouth feeling dry.
- It makes my breath smell sweeter.
- It helps me to stop eating too much food.
- It exercises my jaw.
- It stops me from feeling hungry.
- It's good to chew gum when you're on a long walk because your mouth doesn't get dry.
- It looks cool!
Why do you chew gum?
Can gum be bad for you?
Gum is meant to be chewed and not swallowed.
The food that we eat is digested by our bodies and used to keep us healthy. Gum cannot be digested by our bodies. That doesn't mean that it will collect together inside to make a huge ball that will block everything and stop our bodies from working! Have you heard that story too?
It just means that if you do swallow gum then it will be passed through the digestive system and come out through the body's waste disposal system in your poo. Swallowing chewing gum won't make you sick.
It's best to spit it out when you've finished with it, or when the flavour has all gone.
Be careful how you get rid of used gum!
- Putting it into a tissue and into the bin is ok.
- Throwing it on the ground where people can step on it, pets can swallow it or choke on it or where it can get stuck to rugs, carpets or clothing is not a good idea!
- Sticking it to the underside of your desk isn't helpful.
- Sticking it in your hair isn't great either!
Some interesting stuff about chewing gum
Mr Thomas Adams experimented for years with chicle, thinking that he could use it to make tyres or other products usually made from rubber.
The story goes that, just when he'd given up trying to use chicle he heard a little girl asking for a penny stick of gum to chew. He talked the chemist into trying to sell gum made from chicle and the rest, as they say is history!
has lots of information about inventors and inventions.
Tutti frutti was the first gum to be sold in a vending machine at New York City subway station.
Wrigley is the biggest manufacturer of chewing gum nowadays.
Getting out of a sticky situation
Gum is great until it gets stuck on something and won't come off.
Here are some ways you can try to get yourself out of a sticky situation.
- You can soften gum with eucalyptus oil and slowly pull it out of your hair. It's not easy and it may be a lot quicker to cut it out with a pair of scissors so try not to get it into hair in the first place!
- You can put clothing into a bag and put it in the freezer until the gum hardens when you may be able to break or peel it off.
- You can try ironing the material on the wrong side to soften the gum and peel or scrape off as much as you can. Then try eucalyptus oil to scrub off the rest. Leave the oil on for a while first though.
On carpets or furniture you can use an ice cube to make the gum go hard and then try scraping it off with a blunt knife. Eucalyptus oil can be used to scrub off the rest followed by warm, soapy water to clean off any stains.
Pets should not be given chewing gum as one of the flavour enhancers often used is xylitol and that is poison for dogs. Look at the ingredients listed on the packet if you have an allergy to some food additives. Xylitol is safe for humans.
Chewing gum can cause problems for teeth especially if the gum includes sugar. It is not an alternative to brushing your teeth properly even though it can leave a fresh minty taste in your mouth.
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).