Researchers have found that being able to chew food well lowers anxiety, improves memory, and reduces pain, providing a compelling case for early treatment of poor oral health, removal of misaligned teeth, or simply chewing more gum.
Mice with crossbites showed significantly more noticeable and persistent anxiety-like behaviours, and “early removal of crossbites results in general improvement or partial recovery of these changes,” the authors wrote in their study published in December 2022.
This might be because vigorous chewing increases brain activity, according to Clare Collins, an Australian dietician and laureate professor in nutrition and dietetics at the University of Newcastle.
“The more strongly people could chew, the more blood flowed to their brains, leading to more oxygen and activity in regions of the brain linked to learning and memory,” Collins said.
Studies conducted on rats have also established that difficulty chewing as a result of dysfunctional molars leads to progressive loss of memory and learning capacity and recommended dental treatment to prevent cognitive and neurological deterioration.
Inexpensive and Effective Stress and Pain Reliever
Chewing food such as gum or cloves can also be an affordable and effective way to relieve anxiety and stress.
In a study published on Jan. 31, researchers examined nearly 500 adults to explore the effects of chewing on anxiety and stress and discovered that those who chewed gum more often had significantly less anxiety than those who never chewed gum.
A Turkish study examining 73 children chewing gum during IV insertion procedures also revealed pain-relieving effects.
The children who chewed gum reported significantly lower pain levels compared to the group receiving standard care.
Rather than gums sweetened with artificial sweeteners like aspartame, doctors recommend choosing those using natural flavours and ingredients such as xylitol.
How to improve oral health
Apart from treating misaligned teeth and brushing your teeth after meals, removing sugar from your diet is often advised because people with high sugar in their diet or carbohydrates have a lot more unfriendly bacteria in their mouths that create cavities.
“This [link] between sugar and cavities was suppressed in the early 70s … instead, they shifted their attention to saturated fats,” according to Dr Eric Berg, a chiropractor who specialises in healthy ketosis and intermittent fasting.
“But out of all the foods you should avoid for your teeth and gums, sugar is at the top of the list,” Berg said.
Instead, people should reach for foods such as eggs, greens, sauerkraut, and grass-fed butter or ghee are abundant in vitamins A, C and B1, which specialise in increasing the resistance to infection, building up one’s immunity to disease, and reducing nerve inflammation in the mouth.