Xylitol and You

Sugar-free Sweetener Prevents Cavities

Our website has previously discussed the benefits of xylitol gum in preventing cavities. In this article, our Placerville dentists would like to explain why xylitol improves your oral health and introduce an additional source for purchasing xylitol-based products, like chewing gum.

How Does Xylitol Work?

Oral bacteria thrive on sugar. When they digest sugar, one of their waste products is acid. This acid, if not rinsed or brushed away, leads to tooth decay. How can xylitol help prevent this process?

Since xylitol molecules are similar to sugar molecules, bacteria absorb them just as readily as they do ordinary sugar. When the bacteria tries to digest xylitol, however, it fails to do so. You might compare it to a person trying to eat a bowl of plastic fruit. Those artificial apples and grapes may look tasty, but even if you choke them down, you won’t get any energy from eating them. Bacteria eating xylitol have the same problem. As a result, they get less energy and many eventually die off.

Another study suggests that like fluoride, xylitol may play a role in increasing enamel remineralization. Your saliva contains all the elements necessary to rebuild enamel that is only slightly damaged. Scientists have suggested that xylitol may increase the uptake of calcium from your saliva to your teeth. The end result is stronger and naturally repaired teeth, despite bacterial action.

Where to Get Xylitol Products?

Many chewing gums and toothpastes feature xylitol as an ingredient. One study suggests that as little as one to four grams of xylitol a day is enough to produce less cavities and tooth decay. The general consensus is that you need to expose your teeth to about five to ten grams of the substance, however, for it to have maximum therapeutic effect. Consuming or using more than this appears to provide little additional benefit. What does that mean in the real world? If xylitol is listed as the first ingredient on a chewing gum label, then it probably contains about one gram of xylitol. Spread your use of the gum throughout the day, after meals for example, and you can easily consume five grams. In products where the xylitol is listed much further down the ingredient list the actual amount is likely minimal, but better than zero.

One company offering xylitol products is Epic Dental. Even some dental insurance companies have taken notice of Epic’s offerings and xylitol’s ability to cut back on tooth decay. As a result, your insurer may even offer an Epic Dental discount. In a future article, we may review some of Epic Dental’s products and provide feedback on their quality.

Xylitol is Not a Substitute

Of course, xylitol is not a substitute for regular tooth brushing and flossing. Certainly, if you are unable to brush your teeth at a given moment, xylitol chewing gum is much better than nothing. Make sure, however, that you continue your daily oral health care routine and don’t rely on xylitol alone to get rid of bacteria. In studies showing its beneficial effect, people were still expected to follow a regular regimen of dental care. In association with that, however, xylitol is a good choice for satisfying your sweet tooth while defeating bacteria.


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