Xylitol is the newest dental trend that seems to be appearing in products from gum to peanut butter. A naturally occurring sugar, xylitol can be found in fruits, vegetables, and grains like raspberries, mushrooms, corn, and oats. When xylitol is extracted from plants, it can be used as an artificial sweetener that doesn’t cause tooth decay like regular sugar.
Is xylitol the secret to better dental checkups and preventing cavities?
What Is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is commonly used as a sugar substitute. This naturally occurring substance has a crystalline, granular structure that is similar to sugar and is just as sweet with no unpleasant aftertastes. Xylitol has been clinically proven to benefit the mouth by preventing cavities and reducing the onset of gum disease.
How Xylitol Can Decrease Your Risk of Tooth Decay
Dental cavities are the result of an infectious and transmittable disease caused by one of the many oral bacteria that naturally live in your mouth called Streptococcus mutans. When this particular bacteria feeds on the sugars you eat, it then produces an acid that contributes to the breakdown of tooth enamel. Plaque production, gum disease, cavities, and tooth loss are all typical results of the acid-producing bacteria that thrive on sugars.
Xylitol can help to prevent cavities by containing properties that make it indigestible to bacteria, which can then decrease the number of bacteria that live in your mouth. Xylitol also raises the pH levels in your mouth, making an alkaline oral environment that limits the growth of harmful bacteria.
Products That Contain Xylitol
Xylitol can be easily found in many products, including:
Gum – Perhaps one of the easiest ways to incorporate xylitol into your diet is by chewing gum that contains xylitol after meals and throughout your day.
Toothpaste – Xylitol toothpaste is a type of toothpaste that contains xylitol, a sugar alcohol sourced from birch trees, and other types of hardwood trees and plants.
Mints and Candies – Mints and candies can create higher calcium levels in saliva, which contributes to the washing away of harmful bacteria.
Granular – This form of xylitol can be used to replace refined sugar in baking.
Syrups – Children under the age of four can benefit from xylitol syrup, which reduces the risk of choking on gums or mints.
Remember: Natural Doesn’t Mean Unprocessed
While xylitol is naturally found in fruits and vegetables, it is still highly processed. The best source of xylitol is derived from hardwood birch trees, rather than genetically modified corn products or other chemically produced artificial sweeteners.
Xylitol contains roughly 40% fewer calories than regular sugar, but it is not a sugar-free product. Those with diabetes should be aware that while there is a lower hypoglycemic index, xylitol can still affect blood glucose levels, unlike other natural sweeteners like stevia.
Xylitol Isn’t Right For Everyone
Xylitol can cause gastrointestinal issues. Like most sugars, xylitol pulls water into the intestinal tract, which can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea. People with IBS should altogether avoid consuming xylitol. To minimize side effects, it is recommended that xylitol is introduced slowly, over a week or more, for the body to adjust. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the amount of xylitol consumed must fall within a specific range (three to eight grams) and be spread throughout the day for maximum benefits.
Xylitol can help to improve the overall health of your teeth when combined with a multi-faceted approach to dental hygiene. Merely incorporating xylitol gum into your daily brushing and flossing routine may help you have better visits with your dentist. Ask Premier Dental Center how xylitol can improve your smile at your next checkup!