What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a natural sweetener derived from the fibrous parts of plants, and it a healthy substitute for sugar. Xylitol is not an artificial substance, but a normal part of everyday metabolism. It is widely distributed throughout nature in small amounts. It does not break down like sugar (which turns into acid when the bacteria in the mouth digests it) and can help keep a neutral pH level in the mouth.
Xylitol also prevents bacteria from sticking to the teeth, increases saliva flow, and is shown to stimulate remineralization of teeth. Research studies have shown a reduction in the levels of Streptococcus mutans (the bacteria that causes cavities) in plaque and saliva with a consistent daily dose of xylitol chewing gum. All of these factors promote good oral health.
Who Could Benefit from Xylitol Products?
High risk for cavities – Because it helps reduce the levels of cavity-causing bacteria, patients who have a high risk for cavities will benefit from xylitol products. In addition to reducing bacteria, it also increases the flow of saliva, which is the body’s natural defense against acid, which causes cavities.
Plaque control – Because it helps reduce plaque formation, it is very helpful for patients who lack the manual dexterity to properly brush and floss their teeth. This includes young children, elderly people, people with special needs or those affected with arthritis.
Dry mouth (or xerostomia) – Due to its salivary stimulation, xylitol chewing gum is a great product for anyone suffering from dry mouth. It will cause the mouth to naturally produce saliva and alleviate the symptoms of dry mouth.
How Can I Use it to Improve my Oral Health?
You may see xylitol as an ingredient in many over-the-counter products such as gum and mints. It is also available as a sugar substitute, found at most health food stores. Read the label to find out how much xylitol is present. Research studies vary in their conclusions as to how much xylitol is necessary to prevent cavities.
An average recommended xylitol intake for reducing your cavity risk is 6-10g per day. Studies have also shown that chewing xylitol gum has a greater anti-cavity effect than sucking on xylitol mints because the chewing motion also increases your saliva production, which helps neutralize the pH in your mouth.
Ice Cubes gum by Ice Breakers has over 1.5g of xylitol per piece! It comes in many flavors and is available at most grocery stores, including Walmart. The only patients that should not use xylitol chewing gum are those with TMJ problems. If you suffer from clicking, popping or locking of the jaw joints, chewing gum could aggravate your symptoms and cause joint pain. Ask your dentist if chewing gum could be problematic for you.
IMPORTANT! Xylitol is toxic to dogs!
Make sure you keep any xylitol products out of reach of your pets. Xylitol is highly toxic to dogs. It can cause low blood sugar, seizures, liver toxicity and even death. If you find that your dog has gotten into a container of any xylitol product, call your veterinarian immediately.
Want to Find out if Xylitol Could Help You Reduce Your Risk for Cavities and Gum Disease?
Call our office at 405-943-0123 to set up an evaluation with Dr. McConnell or Dr. Nguyen.