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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.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on chewing gum, visit Britannica.com.