Xylitol is a sugar alcohol sweetener used as a sugar substitute. Unlike other sweeteners, xylitol is actively benefits your dental health. It has been shown in studies to reduce tooth decay up to a third using it regularly.
How does Xylitol Work to Improve Oral Hygiene?
There have been quite a few studies that have shown the benefits of chewing gum sweetened with Xylitol after snacking and meals. Xylitol also makes an excellent sweetener, as it has many of the same properties as regular table sugar (sucrose). However, unlike table sugar, xylitol is able to reduce tooth decay.
Xylitol is a natural sweetener derived from the fibrous parts of plants. It contains much less calories than table sugar and therefore has a decreased effect on the bodies overall blood sugar levels. Xylitol has a low glycemic index of 7, compared to sugar’s glycemic index level of 83. It also does not break down like sugar and can help maintain a neutral pH level in the mouth. Xylitol has the ability to inhibit the creation of acid in the mouth. By decreasing the acid content in the mouth, this lowers the risk of developing tooth decay.
Tooth decay happens when bacteria in your mouth consume the sugars we eat releasing acids as a byproduct. When you eat food containing ordinary sugar (sucrose), it gives bacteria on your teeth energy, allowing them to multiply and start making acids that can eat away the enamel on the teeth. This acid will then slowly eat away at the teeth enamel causing cavities.
Products sweetened with xylitol create an unwelcome environment for bacteria. They simply cannot stick to teeth in a xylitol rich environment. This is how it protects the teeth from tooth decay. With Xylitol, the acid attack that would otherwise last for over half an hour is stopped. The natural bacteria in the mouth that are causing cavities are unable to digest xylitol, their growth is greatly reduced. The number of acid producing bacteria may decrease by as much as 90%. No acid is formed because the pH of saliva and plaque does not fall. After taking xylitol, the bacteria do not stick well on the surface of the teeth and as a result, the amount of plaque decreases. Many people are not aware of this ancillary benefit because such a claim makes xylitol into a drug. This crosses a legal boundary not allowed by the FDA.
It has been recommended that you chew a piece of xylitol gum after every meal or snack to gain maximum benefit for your teeth. Xylitol is recommended by dentists and physicians worldwide as a sweetener for anyone concerned with dental health, upper respiratory health, and sugar consumption, in general.
Can Xylitol Repair Damage to Enamel Too?
Research has also shown that the use of xylitol helps repair damage to the enamel. Saliva protects the mouth and teeth. Stimulated saliva in particular contains all the components needed to repair early tooth cavities. If sugar is only taken a couple of times a day, the saliva can do the job alone. But most people take sugar so often that the mouth’s own defensive tools are not enough.
Saliva that has xylitol is more alkaline than saliva stimulated by other sugar products. After taking xylitol products, the concentration of basic amino acids and ammonia in saliva and plaque may rise, and plaque pH rises as well. When pH is above 7, calcium and phosphate salts in saliva start to move into those parts of enamel that are weak. Therefore, soft, calcium deficient enamel sites begin to harden again.
Xylitol can help maintain a healthy oral environment, but does not replace dental hygiene!
Xylitol can be an excellent adjunct to normal brushing and flossing coupled with regular dental visits and professional cleanings. The best part is it is quite easy to incorporate xylitol into your daily routine.
By Marielaina Perrone DDS
Family Dentist Henderson Nevada
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