Recent research within the field of human movement has put more of an emphasis on the temperomandibular joint and its global affects to the body. Elite athletes have started utlizing neuromuscular dentistry to create mouth-pieces to hold their jaw in the precise spot to hold the jaw for maximal power output, performance and repeated maximal efforts. Studies have also shown that the extra stabilization provided to the TMJ of any mouthgaurd can actually decrease the likelihood of concussions. And of course, I can't forget the recent articles that have talked about the muscles of the jaw and their relating to posture, neck stability/position and weight shift patterns.
With all this hub-bub buzzing around, I think it's important, as a coach, to take a look at the information and apply it. My main thought was, "how does gum affect this?" I know this sounds silly, but the evidence is there..
Chewing gum creates a dynamic position of the jaw, always moving and never symmetrical as the gum stays to one side. This can not only create a fixation that, after enough repetition, it may have an impact on neuromuscular control. It can also inhibit certain cervical stabilizers to engage during the movement. Of course most people are going to chomp down and clench that trident as they pick up heavy things, but even this can cause the TMJ to be slightly out of position and possibly affect the head position and recruitment of stabilizers within the frontal plane. And as the information from the neuromuscular dentists has told us, this can impede training.
Though this may seem like a minor detail, it's a detail that you can control in your weight room. With TMJD on the rise in the general population, I think separating any jaw fixations from our training is a detail that we can't just ignore. Some people may claim that gum actually helps their training, but for these people, I would argue that they probably have some compensatory patterns that the clenching is feeding. I'd be willing to bet that these are the same folks that grind their teeth at night and get tension headaches near the tempal.