Someone who bites on things while awake.

The other day, when I dropped off my friend at the airport, I noticed she had a piece of gum in her mouth. That familiar minty smell filled my car like the sweet smell of flowers. She talked and chewed at the same time, which was something I wanted to do, too. Without thinking about it, I asked for a piece. The second it hit my gum-deprived mouth, it was as if a taste explosion went off in there. Minty flavors bursting on every single last one of my tastebuds. It was as if every type of mint — from spearmint, to peppermint, to wintermint — combined to form the perfect, extraordinary mint. At first, I thought — “this is some amazing gum!” Then, I remembered I’m cutting down. I savored the piece for all it was worth and spit it out shortly thereafter.

Not too many folks would say chewing gum is a bad or unhealthy habit. Unless, of course, you are an old fashioned school marm who does not want to see you stick it under the desk. Or, you are chewing gum containing sugar (apparently, you can’t get addicted to sugar-free gum).

However, did you know that chewing gum excessively can lead to TMJ? Symptoms of TMJ include: headaches (check), pain that radiates to the neck (check). It can be caused by teeth grinding (check) and chewing (double check). TMJ has prevented me from running in the past.

Webmd calls this chewing gum action: “bites on things while awake.” Well, thank goodness for gum! Who knows what I’d find to replace that action! I might even start gnawing on office supplies and, since we don’t use pencils anymore, that means my laptop.

An expensive bite, in comparison. Or is it? I’ve been consistently chewing gum since I started college 14 years ago. The average price of a pack of crunchy gum (my favorite) is $1.50. If you consider that I chew gum at a rate of 3 packs per week (on a good week), over 14 years, that’s 728 weeks x $4.5 = $3,276. That is definitely enough to buy a laptop.

Well, don’t you worry, my dear employer. I won’t be chewing on the laptop. Instead, I will be sucking on things, like I have been this week (cough drops). I’ll be investing now in Starbucks mints (unfortunately not a cost saver, but definitely a distraction from gum). I’ll be chewing sparingly, and most certainly not while running (definitely guilty of this in the past). The gum industry may notice a dip in sales. Though I haven’t seen any studies connecting it explicitly to daytime gum chewing, I’m hoping that the nighttime jaw grinding lessens a little, the headaches get better, and probably the impressions of me as an excessive gum chewer go down. Baby steps. It’s all connected, though.

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