Chewing gum may relieve the pain of braces

Young adolescents and teens with fixed orthodontic appliances who chew gum report significantly less pain and impact of their braces than their peers who do not chew gum, report researchers from Sheffield in the UK.

Specifically, 11-18 year-olds who were randomly assigned to chew gum (CG group) reported significantly lower total impact scores (TIS) - indicating the impact of the braces on their diet, function, and social situations - and visual analog scores (VAS) - indicating teeth pain - at 24 hours after bonding/separator and archwire appointments than those assigned to not chew gum (NG group).

Furthermore, gum chewing had no significant effect on appliance breakages, says the research team in Orthodontics and Craniofacial Research.

"It has been shown that fixed orthodontic appliances lead to a deterioration in both adolescent and adult oral health-related quality of life, particularly in the first month after placement," explain Philip Benson and colleagues from the University of Sheffield.

They add that the act of chewing has been recommended to increase blood flow into and around the periodontal membrane, restoring lymphatic circulation and preventing, or relieving, inflammation and edema.

A total of 28 patients with braces in the NG group were specifically asked not to chew gum throughout the study while the 29 in the CG group received chewing gum to use when required after orthodontic appointments. Patients reported TIS and VAS scores at 24 hours and 1 week after their appointments.

Both measures were significantly lower in the CG than the NG group at 24 hours after appointments, with mean TIS and VAS scores of 73 versus 89, and 20 mm versus 45 mm, respectively. These remained lower among CG patients than NG patients after 1 week, but were not significantly different.

First-time band failures occurred equally in both groups, at a median of 11 (4.4%; NG=4, CG=7) and 15 (6.3%; NG=7, CG=8) at 24 hours and 1 week, and there was no significant difference in the rate of bracket failures and wire and other problems by patient group either.

"The results suggest that when placing a fixed appliance, young people can be advised to use a sugar-free chewing gum when required to relieve discomfort without this having a detrimental effect on their treatment," conclude Benson et al.

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