Have you ever seen advertisements for sugar free gum that claim to help your teeth and wondered whether or not it actually works? It turns out, many of those products actually do work, and one of the reasons why is a common sugar replacement called Xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol, a natural, sweet substance often used to sweeten foods without the caloric impact of sugar. While Xylitol is sweet, it doesn’t have the same impact on your body as sugar.
First, Xylitol starves the bacteria in your mouth of food. Where the normal bacteria on your mouth responsible for cavities (streptococcus mutans) feeds on sugar, it can not feed on Xylitol – chewing sugar free gum containing Xylitol not only doesn’t feed this damaging bacteria, but it allows your body to wash away the sugar. Over time, fewer and fewer bacteria will live in the mouth, and less plaque will form.
The most common sources of Xylitol in sufficient quantities for dental impact is in gum and mint products. While replacing sugar with any Xylitol will help avoid feeding the streptococcus mutans bacteria, if Xylitol is listed as the first ingredient, it likely has enough to actually decrease decay-causing bacteria over time if chewed regularly, perhaps 3-5 times per day for 5 minutes at a time.
Xylitol has been approved as safe by the US FDA and World Health Organization, but like most things in life, should be taken in moderation. While common in foods such as gum and mints, it’s also available over the internet directly – care should be taken, as too much Xylitol can be difficult for your body to digest, and can have fiber-like laxative properties. While chewing gum a few times per day may take effort, it’s a great, cheap, simple way to keep your teeth clean, and help fight off cavities.
For more information on Xylitol call Riverside dentist Dr. Gerald Middleton at (951) 688-3442. Visit our website for special offers, updates and to make an appointment, www.gmdental.com.
Accepting patients from Riverside, Norco, Ontario, Murrieta, Fontana and surrounding communities.