Can Chewing Gum Cause a Headache in My Child?

Can Chewing Gum Cause a Headache. Adrianna Williams/Getty Images

Whether your child chews gum for that yummy sweet flavor or your teenager chews it for stress relief or to mask bad morning breath, you probably did not consider this common habit a potential trigger for your precious one's headaches.

But before you child or adolescent grabs that pack of gum, you may want to suggest a mint or an alternative option for their sweet tooth  – especially if they are prone to headaches.

Does Chewing Gum Cause Headaches in Children?

Research suggests that gum-chewing is a potential headache trigger for children and adolescents. Good news is that stopping it may stop the headaches. In one study in Pediatric Neurology, 19 of 30 children – between the ages of 6 and 19 – had resolution of their headaches – mostly chronic migraines – once they stopped chewing gum – which they had identified as a trigger for their chronic headaches. 7 of the 30 children had partial improvement of their chronic headaches.

Why Does Gum Chewing Cause Headaches?

More than likely, gum chewing imposes a burden on the temporomandibular joint or TMJ, causing headaches. The TMJ allows your jaw to move properly so  you can chew, swallow, and speak. The muscles and joint capsule that surround the TMJ contain nerves – the likely main source of TMJ-related pain.

Other theories of how chewing gum may trigger headaches include:

  • exposure to the artificial sweetener, aspartame, in chewing-gum
  • emotional stress

What Are Other Habits That May Affect the TMJ?

Other habits, similar to excessive gum-chewing, may provoke TMJ-related symptoms – especially if done for more than 3 hours daily. These include:

  • Nail Biting
  • Leaning Your Chin On Your Hand
  • Chewing Ice
  • Teeth Grinding
  • Biting on a Pen or Other Object
  • Lip Biting

So if gum chewing is a trigger for your child's headaches, these may be as well.

Besides Headache, What are Other Symptoms of TMJ-related pain?

If your child's TMJ is inflamed or the muscles surrounding the TMJ are in spasm from gum chewing, she may also experience these symptoms in addition to a headache:

  • Jaw pain
  • Limited range of motion of the jaw
  • Neck pain or stiffness
  • Clicking sound heard when moving the joint/jaw
  • Difficulty opening your mouth

Guidelines from American Academy of Pediatrics

Just as an aside, if your child does chew gum, please be sure they are of an appropriate age and that they are not swallowing it. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that "gum not be given to children who are too young to understand that they shouldn't swallow it " ("Chewing gum," n.d.) Repeated swallowing of gum may cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, mouth sores, and teeth and jaw problems.

Take Home Message

Keeping a headache diary for your child may be helpful in understanding whether gum is triggering headaches and why your child chews gum – is it related to stress, boredom or hunger?

If your child is a teenager, she may be able to keep her own diary.

If you suspect chewing gum is playing a role in your child's headaches, you may want to consider encouraging them to discontinue the habit to see if this stops or improves their headaches. Talking with your pediatrician or child's neurologist would also be a good idea if you suspect this trigger.


Buescher JJ. Temporomandibular joint disorders. Am Fam Physician. 2007 Nov 15;76(10):1477-1482.

Chewing Gum. In A Minute For Kids: American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved on May 25th, 2015, from

Watemberg N, Matar M, Har-Gil M, & Mahajnah M. The influence of excessive chewing gum use on headache frequency and severity among adolescents. Pediatr Neurol. 2014 Jan;50(1):69-72.

Winocur E, Gavish A, Finkelshtein T, Halachmi M, & Gazit E. Oral habits among adolescent girls and their association with symptoms of temporomandibular disorders. J Oral Rehabil. 2001 Jul;28(7):624-9.

Winocur, E, Littner, D, Adams, I & Gavish, A. Oral habits and their association with signs and symptoms of the temporomandibular disorder in adolescents: a gender comparison. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod. 2006; 102: 482–87.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this site is for educational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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