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Peppermint chewing gum is the peppermint flavored chewing substance typically made of chicle or synthetic rubber. Chewing gum is typically made of gum base, a water insoluble material, and water soluble sweeteners and flavoring. The flavor of peppermint chewing gum tends to come from the oil of peppermint leaves, and is usually chosen as a gum flavor to promote breath freshness.
Peppermint is a type of mint plant indigenous to Europe, but can be found in most regions of the world today. Though it was at first considered its own species, peppermint is actually a sterile hybrid of watermint and spearmint. Because of its high menthol concentration, as well as its menthone and menthyl ester content, make it a popular choice for soaps, confections, chewing gum, and shampoos. The oil produces a minty taste and a cooling sensation that makes peppermint chewing gum an effective breath freshener.
Chicle is a natural gum with a high sugar content from the Central American evergreen tree, Manilkara chicle. The trees are tapped through slashing the tree and collecting the gum in bags, similar to methods of tapping the latex tree, a process which has endangered the Manilkara chicle tree. For this reason and because it is more economical, most chewing gum companies have switched to synthetic rubber bases.
Chewing gum was invented by Thomas Adams, who opened the first chewing gum factory in 1870. The act of chewing gum, however, has a history that traces back much further. Ancient Greeks would chew mastic gum from the resin of a mastic tree to freshen their breath and clean their teeth. In North America, the resin of spruce trees was by American Indians and European immigrants, until it was replaced by paraffin wax in the 1850s. In 1880, the first flavored gum was invented by William White by adding corn syrup and sugar to chicle. The first flavored gum that White produced was peppermint chewing gum.
Peppermint chewing gum can come in several different shapes and sizes with different manufacturing methods. Common types are gumballs, bubblegum, sugar-free gum, medicinal gum, teeth-whitening gum, and dragée gum, or "pellet gum," a hard coated rectangular gum typically packaged in blister packs. Usually, gum is manufactured through melting the gum base and refining it in a centrifuge. Manufacturers then add powdered sugar, corn syrup or glucose, softeners, and any natural or artificial flavorings, food colorings, and preservatives particular to that gum. Medicinal gum will also have medicine added and sugar-free gum will use artificial sweeteners instead of powdered sugar. Coated gums are then covered in liquid sugar and glazed, usually with wax.
Chewing gum has had a mixed history with oral hygiene. Recaldent chewing gum has been proven to fight early signs of tooth decay and antibacterial infused gum has been used in the United States military to promote oral hygiene. It can also be used as a stress reliever. Health concerns have been raised, however, over some gum bases that contain vinyl acetate, a possible carcinogen. Dentists often discourage the use of chewing gums with high sugar contents.
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