Chewing Gum

Have you ever walked by a tree, looked at the sap oozing out of it, and thought to yourself, “Hmm… that tree sap looks really good, I might like to chew on some of that!”? It sounds pretty strange when you think of it like that, but that’s exactly what the Mayans did when they walked by a sapodilla tree (that’s where the word “sap” comes from). And it a good thing otherwise the gum we chew today could have evolved in a very different manner!

Chewing Gum History

The history of the evolution of gum is a fascinating subject and has a great story to it (at least I think it does anyway… and your kids can always use this for a Science Report!)

Gum chewing (although it wasn’t even close to gum as we know it) has it origins back in ancient Greece. The Grecians chewed mastic gum (pronounced mas-tee-ka), which is the resin obtained from the bark of the mastic tree, a shrublike tree found mainly in Greece and Turkey. The Grecian women especially, favored chewing mastic gum to clean their teeth and sweeten their breath.

But the Mayans weren’t too far behind the Greeks — they simply got their sap from a different tree. But the tree the Mayans chose (the Sapodilla tree) actually produced a sap called ‘chicle’ which is exactly where much of the gum in the US comes from. And ironically enough, even though the Mayan civilization literally disappeared overnight in about the year 800, virtually the only Mayan practice that remained intact was that of chewing gum.

Meanwhile, the American Indians of New England were also chewing gum, but made from the resin of spruce trees. Although chicle-based gums would ultimately win out in the US, the first gums ever marketed in the US were those based from the resin of spruce trees.

Over the mid 1800’s, spruce gum was gradually replaced by paraffin wax gum to which sweeteners were added, however the one drawback of paraffin wax gum was that it required heat and moisture from the mouth in order to render it suitable for chewing.

It wasn’t until 1869 that modern day gum products first appeared. The famous Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was searching for a substitute for rubber, and thought that chicle (remember the sap from the sapodilla tree that the Mayans chewed on?) might be a good fit. He contacted the American Inventor Thomas Adams, and while Adams couldn’t get chicle to work as rubber, he had the brilliant idea to turn it into a gum base. And thus modern day chewing gum was born from information that the Mayans had known for thousand of years — chicle makes great gum!

Chewing Gum History Facts

  • The ancient Greeks chewed mastiche – a chewing gum made from the resin of the mastic tree.
  • The ancient Mayans chewed chicle which is the sap from the sapodilla tree.
  • North American Indians chewed the sap from spruce trees and passed the habit along to the settlers.
  • Early American settlers made a chewing gum from spruce sap and beeswax.
  • Did you know? During World War II, American soldiers used Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum to patch gas tanks and jeep tires. They received the gum as an emergency ration.

Chewing Gum Evolution

As you can see, the evolution of chewing gum makes for an interesting story, but it’s not until recent years have manufactures figured out how to add a variety of ingredients which are responsible for an assortment of proven health benefits (besides fresh breath!)

If you have chronic halitosis, all the gum in the world is not going to stop it! However, if you only have occasional bad breath, or dry mouth towards the end of the day, or are simply looking for a solution to neutralize odors after a particularly offensive meal, or before a special moment, then I think you’ll find this gum will work wonders.

Zinc is a known inhibitor of acid production by mutans streptococci (the bacteria in your mouth that cause bad breath). These bacteria thrive in an acidic environment, so when you neutralize acids you kill bacteria (and you help prevent that annoying tinny, metallic taste). In addition, a high level of oral acids is bad for your tooth enamel, so you’re helping to keep a brighter, whiter smile as well.

Zinc ions also perform an interesting function when they meet anaerobic bacteria — they “clog” up certain receptors on the outer cell wall of anaerobic bacteria, so that that “bugs” cannot create sulfur compounds. (Zinc gluconate is the best tasting of all the zinc compounds which can be used in oral products.)

Lastly, Zinc Gluconate (and only Zinc Gluconate) has been proven to restore sour/bitter/metallic tastes. Studies have shown that people with long term taste disorders can experience a rejuvenation of their taste buds after long-term use of Zinc gluconate gum or lozenges… (which is what is used in ZOX and all of Therabreath’s chewing gum formulas – as well as ALL Plus formulas.)

Second, it uses Xylitol as a sweetener, instead of sugar or Aspartame (Nutrasweet) like so many other chewing gums. Xylitol is an all-natural sweetener made from the bark of hardwood trees. It is also naturally produced in small quantities in our own bodies.

It is a sugar alcohol, with makes it safe for diabetics because the body doesn’t react to sugar alcohols the same way that it does to sucrose or glucose (found in most of the popular kiddy-flavored gums, such as Big Red, Juicy Fruit, etc.)

Most importantly, it has an interesting property in that it has been proven to fight tooth decay and is the only “sweetener” that does so — the complete opposite of sugar — which oral bacteria use to generate acids, which lead to tooth decay. NEVER chew gum that contains sugar if you want to maintain fresh breath!

Simply put, a good amount of xylitol provides a healthy environment for an oral ecosystem.

Finally, Oxygenating Compounds, specially designed to work with chewing gum base, to gently bathe your mouth and throat with oxygenating molecules designed to neutralize any and all volatile sulfur compounds, located in your mouth, throat, tonsils, and even in the upper reaches of your esophagus. Every time you swallow, your saliva — now loaded with oxygen and zinc molecules — bathes the back of your tongue, throat, tonsils area, and even the very beginning of your esophagus, a formerly ignored hiding place for anaerobic sulfur-producing bacteria.

Chewing Gum for Brain Power


Chewing gum may rev up short and long-term memory by as much as 35 percent, according to new research.

To test the power of gum, 75 British volunteers chewed real gum, pretended to chew, or sat quietly in a room as they were presented a list of words on a computer screen.

Results: Gum chewers remembered the most words immediately after seeing the list and 25 minutes later.

Researchers believe this is the effect of chewing the gum. There are two theories that may explain the cause.

Theory One

  • Chewing gum increased volunteers’ heart rate by five to six beats per minute, which boosted blood flow to busy brain cells. More blood means more oxygen and blood sugar – fuels for brain power.

Theory Two

  • Chewing may also stimulate insulin production, allowing brain cells to absorb more blood sugar. Insulin receptors are densely packed into the hippocampus area of the brain, which is responsible for memory.

Chew for Better Memory

  • Pick any gum. The type will not make a difference.
  • Chew while you learn. Study participants who remembered the most chewed before, during and after seeing the words they were later tested on.

Recommended Gum

A recommended gum is Xlear Spry Dental Defense System, Sugar Free Cinnamon Gum. This gum is fresh and moisturizing for your mouth, contains no sugar to harm your teeth; instead, this gum uses xylitol. Xylitol has anti-cavity and anti-bacterial properties.

Did You Know?

  • In 1848, John B. Curtis made and sold the first commercial chewing gum called the State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum.
  • In 1888, an Adams’ chewing gum called Tutti-Frutti became the first gum to be sold in a vending machine. The machines were located in a New York City subway station.
  • Dentyne gum was created by New York druggist Franklin V. Canning in 1899.
  • The first bubble gum ever marketed was called “Blibber-Blubber.” It was made by Frank Fleer Corp. in 1906 but the gum was never sold. The bubbles would burst into sticky fragments all over the chewer’s face! By 1928 however, an employee of the Frank H. Fleer Company, Walter Diemer, invented a successful pink colored Dubble Bubble, bubble gum.
  • Wrigley Doublemint brand gum was created in 1914.