Sweetened product made from chicle and similar resilient substances that is chewed for its flavour. Tree resins have been chewed as teeth cleaners and breath fresheners since ancient times. The latex (called chicle) of the Central American sapodilla tree was first used to mass-produce chewing gum in the 19th century; its plasticity, insolubility in water, and ability to hold a flavour made it an ideal chewing-gum base. After World War II other gums and synthetic rubbers came to replace chicle.
Learn more about chewing gum with a free trial on Britannica.com.
Up-and-down and side-to-side movements of the lower jaw, using the teeth to grind food for easier swallowing. During chewing, the tongue shapes food into a lump and saliva lubricates it for swallowing. Chewing softens tough meat or vegetable fibres and exposes them to digestive enzymes.
Learn more about chewing with a free trial on Britannica.com.