What?!? It’s true, but not what you think. There are many sweeteners called sugars. We’re talking about the sweetener xylitol. It can be found in many ‘sugar-free’ gums and candies. It is a natural sugar or sweetener. Table sugar or sucrose is definitely bad for your teeth and when most people think sugar, that’s what comes to mind. When the bacteria that live in your mouth are exposed to table sugar, they ‘eat’ it, and produce acid which makes holes or cavities in your teeth.
Xylitol is different. The bacteria that produce cavities ‘eat’ the xylitol but they are unable to ‘digest’ it. They then have to expend energy to get rid of it. But then they ‘eat’ it again and have to get rid of it again. With no energy coming in and lots of energy going out, the bacteria lose their ability to produce acid and cling to your teeth.
The regular use of xylitol (5-10 grams spread out over 5 times) reduces plaque and cavities by 50%. That’s more than brushing and flossing. As you can imagine Xylitol is gaining popularity as a way to heal tooth caries and increase oral health. But is it healthy?? Well, yes! One teaspoon of xylitol contains 9.6 calories and one teaspoon of sugar has 15 calories–making xylitol a lower-calorie alternative. Xylitol also contains zero net effective carbohydrates, and sugar contains 4 grams per teaspoon., which makes xylitol safe for diabetics. Studies are also being done that indicate that xylitol may be beneficial for individuals wishing to avoid bone density loss. Also, xylitol has been known to aid in the prevention of ear infections.
You can find xylitol containing products at www.zellies.com, www.xlear.com, and www.drjohns.com.You can also find these products at the supermarket and in convenience stores. Just make sure that it states the number of grams of xylitol and that there are at least 1 gram per serving. Strive for five applications a day and you’ll be on your way to having a healthier mouth.
So how can you brush with xylitol? This dentist takes a quarter teaspoon of pure xylitol and swishes it around prior to brushing and then spits it out. You can also buy toothpaste that contains xylitol as well.
Jonathan Campbell, DDS, is a dentist in Salt Lake City with a practice emphasizing prevention and treatment of dental disease.