What Really Happens When You Swallow Your Gum?

Do you swallow your gum? Have you ever worried about what happens after you swallow it? Read on to learn about what really does happen when you swallow your gum. Remember, sugarless gum is always best for your teeth! Thanks for visiting us at Saddle Rock Pediatric Dentistry of Aurora, CO. Enjoy reading!

You’ve heard the warnings: If you swallow gum, it will stay in your digestive system for nearly a decade. Which would mean there’s a decent chance you’ve got some hanging out in your gut right now.

If you look at its ingredients—a delicious mix of indigestible compounds—it certainly seems possible. And if you look at the medical books, swallowed gum has caused some serious problems. Is it possible that your mom’s crazy warnings were right?

The Worst Cases

A 1998 article in the journal Pediatrics discussed three cases in which kids took the act of gum-swallowing to Intervention-like extremes. (Warning: What follows is not for the squeamish!)

The first tale was of a four and a half year old boy who had been addicted to chewing since he was two. By the time his parents finally took him to get help, he was up to seven pieces of gum a day—each one he had conveniently disposed of down his throat. When the mass created a blockage, his doctors had to pull the “taffy like substance” from him manually.

The next subject, also four, would indulge in gum several times a day as a reward from her parents. The subject was known to gulp down her first piece just so she was allowed another. In the end “multiple spheres of chewed gum congealed into a multicolored rectal mass”—their words, not mine—had to be extracted.

The final tale comes from a regular gum-chewing one and a half year old. The girl apparently decided to spice things up by taking in four coins with what she was chewing. The mass had to be pulled out via a special coin-in-body retrieval system. Not good!

The History of Gum

But these are extreme cases—just three out of possible millions. It’s possible that we’ve been accidentally swallowing gum for centuries. Lumps of tar that date back to 7000 BCE have been unearthed in Northern Europe with teeth impressions in them. And chewing gum was primarily a young people’s thing even then; teeth marks show that users typically fell within the 6-15 age range.

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