There's good news for parents who suffer sleepless nights due to the headaches suffered by their adolescent children. All they need to do now is to find out if their children are chewing gum. And put an end to the habit. That's the finding of a study by Nathan Watemberg of the Tel Aviv University-affiliated Meir Medical Center. What prompted him to do the research was his own experience. Watemberg noticed that when his adolescent patients, who visited him with complaints of headaches, recovered substantially when they stopped chewing gum. He then chose 30 patients (between the ages of 6 and 19) who had chronic migraine and chewed gum every day. He asked them to stop chewing gum for one month to see the results."Out of our 30 patients, 26 reported significant improvement, and 19 had complete headache resolution," said Watemberg, who has taken a statistical approach to test his thesis. What makes the results more convincing is that when 26 of the patients resumed gum chewing for two weeks, just to test the findings, they reported headaches within days. To explain his findings Watemberg has relied on a previous study that suggested that gum-chewing causes stress to the temporomandibular joint, frequently referred to as TMJ. This is the place where the jaw meets the skull. "Every doctor knows that overuse of the TMJ will cause headaches," said Watemberg. "I believe this is what's happening when children and teenagers chew gum excessively." He rejects the explanation offered by another study that blamed aspartame, the artificial sweetener used in most chewing gums. Watemberg reasons that had aspartame been the cause, diet drinks and artificially sweetened products should have caused more headaches, which is not the case. The findings of his study have been published in the current edition of the journal Pediatric Neurology.
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