The present study investigates a possible relationship between use of chewing gum and otitis media with effusion (OME) in children. Chewing obviously activates jaw movements, increases salivary flow, and, by the way, the rate of swallowing and the rate of activations of peritubal muscles and tubal openings. Chewing also requires nasal respiration, thus preventing mouth breathing.
Cross-sectional study: 1756 children (2 to 6 yr of age), apparently in good health and visiting different Dutch child health centers in the region of Utrecht were examined between September 1999 and April 2002. OME was diagnosed by combined tympanometry and otoscopy. The criterion for OME was unilateral or bilateral type B tympanogram, according to Jerger. The parents had to fill out a questionnaire with a question pertaining to the chewing habits of their child.
Logistic regression points out that age and season as well as chewing gum–consuming habits significantly influence the prevalence of OME. The strongest effects are age (OME becomes less frequent with age) and season (OME occurs less when climate is more favorable), but—ceteris paribus—a child consuming daily or at least weekly chewing gum shows significantly less chance for OME than a child who seldom consumes or consumes no chewing gum (p = 0.023).
In the case of regular use of chewing gum, the probability of having OME in children is reduced by 40%. It seems plausible that children with immature oral motorics do not like chewing gum.