Effects of chewing gum on responses to routine painful procedures in children

Physiol Behav. 2003 Jul;79(2):257-65. doi: 10.1016/s0031-9384(03)00098-2.


In infants, sweet taste and sucking on a pacifier both have analgesic effects. Animal studies suggest that sweet taste may involve opioids, while rhythmic oral movements, as with a pacifier, increase the release of serotonin, which is involved in the gating of nociceptive afferents. The present study was designed to see if these effects produce an analgesic effect in children. Two studies were performed, during blood draws in a pediatric test center in 7- to 12-year-old children, and during vaccination at school in 9- to 11-year-old children. Using unsweetened or sweetened chewing gum, there were four groups: control, sweet, chew, and sweet plus chew. Overall, there was no effect of either sweet taste or chewing on pain responses. However, in boys sweet taste tended to increase pain ratings, but only in conjunction with chewing, while in girls sweet taste tended to decrease pain ratings in conjunction with chewing and increased them in the absence of chewing. Ratings of pain intensity and affective state were correlated. Affective state before the painful stimulus was related to pain response in the girls and in the boys in the test center, but not in the schools. In the schools, the presence of peers may have influenced the ratings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blood Specimen Collection / adverse effects*
  • Chewing Gum*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mastication*
  • Pain / etiology*
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sweetening Agents / pharmacology
  • Taste
  • Vaccination / adverse effects*


  • Chewing Gum
  • Sweetening Agents