Gum chewing, as an exercise, is one of the most comprehensive exercises. It addresses deficits in jaw, lip and tongue functioning. The only two criteria that are necessary to initiate a gum chewing program are the presence of at least two back molars and the ability to swallow without aspiration. It can even be used with severely cognitively- impaired clients who cannot follow verbal directions but demonstrate a muscle- based cause- and- effect understanding. In addition, a client who demonstrate any of the following habits will benefit from a gum chewing program: teeth grinding, thumb sucking, pacifier sucking, bottle sucking, tongue sucking, excessive mouthing of objects or clothing, biting and drooling
Gum chewing can also be used to teach tongue retraction and tongue lateralization. When you instruct the client to chew with his/her lips closed, you will also be working on lips closure.
A client who have Sensory Integration deficits benefit from gum chewing, as it helps to stabilize the body and to organize the sensory system.
- Before beginning this exercise, speak with the parents to explain the importance of introducing gum chewing as it relates specifically to their child. Show them the entire hierarchy and explain that their child will be taught how to chew gum slowly and safely, without the danger of swallowing it.
- You will need to make a decision about what kind of gum you are going to use to implement his exercise. Choose sugarless or sugared bubble gum. The texture will vary according to the type of gum you choose.
- Sugared gum starts out more firm and get “gooey” over time. It requires more intensity and is used for shorter duration chewing.
- Sugarless gum starts out softer and gets more firms over time. It is used for clients who need to chew for longer periods of time.
Note: The ultimate decision may depend on the client’s dental health or his/ her dietary requirements.
- Do not use gum chewing with clients who have diagnosed TMJ problems.
- Gum chewing is used to improve jaw stability and jaw granting.
- WORK SLOWLY! If you try to progress too rapidly, the client will not succeed
- There are three components to every step. Each segment should be given equal importance:
- Introduction: Introducing the gum to the client.
- TASK: Gum in the mouth.
- DISPOSAL: Placing the gum in the garbage can
- Each step is repeated daily until the task is mastered.
- Steps #1 through #7 are done while sitting down and facing the client.
- Homework: Establish during the session where the client fails on the hierarchy. Practice that step at the highest level of successful repetitions for at least one week before moving on to the next level or step