Thursday, November 4, 2010

To Chew or Not To Chew...

That is the question…

Kids put many objects into their mouths such as fingers, pen tops, pencil erasers, but one of the most socially acceptable items found in the oral cavity is chewing gum. A popular habit from the age of the caveman, it is often used to relieve stress, freshen breath, and may even prevent plaque buildup and gum disease. Studies by The Wrigley Science Institute (dedicated to studying gum), have suggested it may have an effect on appetite and memory. Not to mention that it is most helpful providing oral-motor stimulation to a child with sensory needs (talk to your Occupational Therapist about this). According to, over 100,000 tons of chewing gum are being consumed every year. It clearly provides enjoyment and sensory stimulation to many people. But... While gum can be useful, gum chewing can be one of the most annoying habits to watch.

Sticky and gooey, a piece of gum can be chewed for hours, used to blow bubbles or “put it on the bedpost overnight”** to resume chewing in the morning. It can end up on the bottom of an unsuspecting shoe, stuck in someone’s hair, strategically placed under a desk or plastered all over an unsuspecting face once the bubble bursts. It is pliable enough to stretch into long strands, twist into pretzels and can be used to make hideously loud clacking noises. Mostly, it is irritating to everyone else subjected to watching the monotonous chewing motion and listening to the sound effects of repetitive mastication. Since gum is not on the verge of extinction, should gum be banned or is there etiquette to chewing the rubber?

Two problems noted by Sheryl Eberly, author of 365 Manners Kids Should Know are the visual image and what to do after it’s been chewed (known as ABC gum). The most obvious solution is not to partake in the habit which is not really a viable alternative.

Following a few simple EtiKids' guidelines can help eliminate references to “chewing like a cow” or other ruminant animals from family, friends and teachers. Basically, chewing gum should be avoided in public places such as school, houses of worship, social events (weddings, birthday parties, theater), job interviews, private classes or studios, and any other place one may talk, eat or disturb others.

· Use small pieces one at a time, not giant wads that pad the cheeks. EtiKids stresses social skills and encourages behaviors that keep food inside the mouth. This is much easier to do if the mouth is not full. Bubbles are a no-no!

· Cracking gum and blowing bubbles is not an enjoyable experience for those not chewing. To be polite, refrain from such actions. The person on the left will be quite thankful.

· While chewing, lips should remain closed. This helps to eliminate sound effects. Chomping noises are never considered good manners.

· Share with friends. If one is tempted to slip a piece of gum into the mouth, make sure a piece is offered to accompanying friends.

· To remove gum from the mouth, place in a tissue and put in the trash. Please do not throw it in the toilet or spit it out. That’s a blog for another time!

Parents can set be helpful and set guidelines. Exaggerate for children what open mouth chewing looks like and discuss how it is perceived. Explain that it is difficult to remove if it gets on one’s clothes or in hair, and it should not to be swallowed.

Most important for safety, parents should remember choking is one of the leading causes of death to children that are age three and under. In addition to the usual dangers of hot dogs, peanuts and whole grapes, chewing gum is listed as a safety hazard by the American Academy of Pediatrics and should be a concern for parents. Be prepared, learn the Heimlich maneuver!


Oh-me, oh-my, oh-you
Whatever shall I do
Hallelujah, the question is peculiar
I'd give a lot of dough
If only I could know
The answer to my question
Is it yes or is it no

Does your chewing gum lose its flavour
On the bedpost overnight
If your mother says don't chew it
Do you swallow it in spite
Can you catch it on your tonsils
Can you heave it left and right
Does your chewing gum lose its flavour
On the bedpost overnight

Based on the 1924 original by Ernest Hare & Billy Jones, "Does The Spearmint Lose Its Flavor On The Bedpost Overnight? (Marty Bloom / Ernest Breuer / Billy Rose)

Lonnie Donegan - 1958 (Also recorded by: Ding Dongs)

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