What is Xylitol and What Are Its Dental Benefits?

chewing gum with xylitol

Alpharetta, GA – Have you heard that using products that contain Xylitol may be beneficial to your children’s teeth? But what is Xylitol, and why should you add it to your family’s diet?

Xylitol is a natural carbohydrate that looks and tastes like sugar,” says Dr. Nanna.

“It is extracted from woody, fibrous plants, such as corn cobs, but is also manufactured in our bodies. It has tremendous dental benefits, so even though it is a sugar substitute when used properly, it can actually help your teeth.”

We know that tooth decay is caused by bacteria that interact with the foods we consume. The sugars in the food give the bacteria that live in our mouth energy, helping them to multiply and attack the enamel that protects our teeth during what we call an acid attack. Over time, these acid attacks result in decay and cavities.

While Xylitol is a sweetener, it actually works to help protect your teeth.

It doesn’t break down the sugars from the foods we eat, and can actually help your mouth maintain a natural pH level. Additionally, it prevents the bacteria from sticking to the teeth, which can prevent tooth decay. In fact, Xylitol can help reduce acid-producing bacteria by as much as 90 percent.

“But that’s not all Xylitol may be able to do in your mouth,” says Dr. Nanna. “Research has also shown that it can even repair damage that has already been done to the enamel. Your saliva works as a barrier to tooth decay because it washed away the harmful bacteria. And saliva that contains Xylitol can work to repair the beginnings of decay.”

The average American consumes as much as 31 teaspoons of sugar a day, which can account for 20 percent of the daily caloric intake.

This sugar not only damages our teeth, it can also deplete our bodies of vitamins and minerals, raise our blood pressure and cholesterol, and increase the risk of diabetes and obesity.

This is one reason why we are seeing an increase in so many new sugar substitutes on the market. While these are great for lowering the amount of sugar we take in each day, Xylitol has the most benefits for our teeth.

Studies have shown that using between one and 20 grams of Xylitol per day can reduce the rate of cavity formation in both children and adults. But where can you find it?

The most common sources to introduce Xylitol are in the form of chewing gum and candies, but it can also be found in some toothpastes and as a sugar substitute. For small children, parents can introduce Xylitol in the form of wipes, gels, and mouth sprays.

(Photos Courtesy of Google Images.)

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