Mastic Gum: Benefits to Chew On

Mastic gum is not your normal chewing gum. This medicinal gum has been used for centuries for various medical reasons. However, it has recently gained popularity worldwide due to a practice called mewing. Let’s dive in to see what the hype is about if there are true benefits, and some tips you should know before adding mastic gum to your daily routine.

Key takeaways:

What is mastic gum?

Mastic gum is a natural resin produced by mastic trees grown on the Greek islands of Chios. While these trees are grown in several regions in the Mediterranean, only trees growing on a few islands will produce the resin sap called mastic. In fact, the European Union gives Greece the exclusive right to produce Chios mastic gum.

Mastic resin comes from small cuts made into the bark of the Chios trees. The resin slowly starts to drip from these cuts. The resin forms a teardrop shape. Therefore, locals often refer to mastic as “tears of Chios."

It takes about a month or more for the resin to crystalize before it can be harvested and cleaned. Mastic is the main income source for many Chios families. Most mastic is exported from the region and sold around the world.

Benefits of mastic

This aromatic resin was originally harvested for its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties. Today it is mainly used for chewing gum. Research suggests mastic gum may have many benefits beyond the mouth. Here are some of the oral and overall health benefits of chewing mastic.

Preventing inflammation

Inflammation is responsible for many diseases in the body. So, controlling inflammation is crucial for disease prevention. Studies have found that chewing mastic may help reduce inflammation associated with gingivitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and some types of dermatitis.

Lowering cholesterol levels

In a 2015 study, mastic gum lowered total cholesterol levels in participants. In this study, the gum had few side effects and was tolerated well by most people. Mastic may be particularly beneficial for those who are overweight or obese.

Improving gut health

The antibacterial properties in mastic can help reduce bacteria like Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). This bacteria has been linked to many gastric diseases, including:

  • Gastritis
  • Peptic ulcer disease
  • Gastric cancer

Therefore, reducing H. pylori bacteria is crucial in managing and preventing these gastric disorders.

A recent study showed treatments using common medications like antibiotics or proton pump inhibitors for H. pylori are effective around 85% of the time. This is partially due to how resistant H. pylori is to many antibiotics.

This particular study suggests adding mastic to other treatments may kill more than 90% of H. pylori bacteria. However, more studies are needed to fully understand this course of treatment.

Promoting saliva production

Chewing gum helps to stimulate the salivary glands to produce saliva. Saliva is a natural buffer for the mouth and teeth. Bacteria in the mouth produce acids that cause enamel demineralization and cavities.

Saliva helps to neutralize these acids, wash away food particles from the teeth, and remineralize tooth surfaces. Therefore, increasing saliva production helps to maintain a healthier oral environment and prevent tooth damage.

Reducing oral bacteria and plaque

A study using dental students with relatively healthy mouths showed that mastic gum may help reduce bacterial growth in the saliva and prevent plaque formation on teeth. Most oral diseases are directly related to specific bacteria in the mouth.

Therefore, preventing bacteria and plaque can greatly reduce the chances of developing oral diseases like:

  • Gingivitis
  • Cavities
  • Periodontal disease

While gum can’t replace brushing and flossing, adding it to a proper oral hygiene routine can improve plaque and bacteria control.

Stronger jaw muscles

Chewing uses multiple muscles in the face and neck. A 2010 study in rats showed a relationship between softer foods and chewing muscle weakness. Chewing gum regularly helps engage and strengthen jaw muscles.

Since mastic gum is firmer than other types of gum, it may help strengthen jaw muscles more.

Improving mental well-being and work performance

Research suggests chewing gum may help stimulate the brain and provide multiple mental benefits, including:

  • Improving concentration on tasks
  • Creating a more pleasant mood
  • Enhancing alertness
  • Increasing productivity
  • Reducing fatigue

So, when you feel less motivated or have trouble focusing on specific tasks, try grabbing a piece of gum. It may help you focus more than that cup of coffee.

Creating a more defined jawline

Many avid mastic chewers claim it can help the lower jaw grow to become more defined. Some claim the toughness of mastic gum strengthens the jaw muscles and stimulates the maxillary and mandibular jawbones to grow. This allows the tongue to sit more naturally, which can help improve the airway.

Jaw growth, tongue position, and airway function are the main focuses of a practice called mewing. Theoretically, when these things happen together, it creates a more prominent, slender jawline and improves overall health.

However, more research is needed to prove chewing mastic gum and the benefits of mewing.

How to chew mastic gum

The first time you chew mastic gum, you may be surprised at just how hard it is. Here are a few suggestions that can help you adjust to the toughness:

  1. Choose a consistency. A package of mastic gum may contain multiple consistencies due to the different curing stages the gum goes through. So, to begin with, you may choose a softer piece and gradually move up to the harder pieces.
  2. Drink water. Sipping on a glass of water before chewing helps ensure your mouth is moist.
  3. Soften mastic. Start by sucking on the mastic gum like it’s a piece of candy. This allows the saliva and temperature of your mouth to soften the mastic before you start chewing.
  4. Chew. Start chewing your piece of mastic for around 15–20 minutes. You can increase the time or frequency of chewing as your muscles adjust to the added tension.

Risks of chewing tougher gums

Since mastic gum is different than regular chewing gum, some risks are involved.

  • Adverse reactions. Some people may experience an upset stomach, dizziness, or a headache when chewing mastic gum. So, start with a small piece for a shorter amount of time. Carefully watch for any adverse reactions before moving up in duration and dose.
  • TMJ issues. If you experience popping, clicking, or pain in your jaw or ear while chewing, check with a dental professional before adding mastic gum. Chewing a more tenacious gum can aggravate the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and lead to severe joint problems.
  • Dental restorations or orthodontic appliances. Those with extensive dental restorations should check with their dental professional before using the tougher gum. The excess forces could damage your restorations. Also, orthodontic wires and bands are easier to loosen when chewing gum.

Tips for choosing gum

Remember to consider these things when choosing the right gum for your needs:

  • Main goal. Ask yourself whether you are simply chewing for enjoyment, to increase your concentration, to maximize your jaw strength, or something else. Different gums fit different needs.
  • Cost. Mastic gum may cost more than regular, sugar-free gum. But could the benefits of chewing harder gum help prevent more costly dental issues? Sometimes, the benefits are worth the extra cost.
  • Source. Most gum brands are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Therefore, you should choose a trustworthy source to get the best quality product possible.

The right gum can help improve oral health, reduce the risk of dental diseases, strengthen the muscles used for chewing, and improve your focus, but it is important to know the facts first.

Mastic gum has been used for centuries around the world. Many of its benefits are well documented. Adding mastic to your daily routine just may help improve your life in ways you never dreamed of.

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