Xylitol: Not Just Another X-word
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a naturally occurring, plant-based sugar-alcohol. It is used as a sugar substitute in prepared foods, baked good, and candies. Xylitol has a negligible effects on blood sugar because it is metabolized independently of insulin, and is recommended for those with diabetes.
Xylitol and Oral Health
Dental benefits of xylitol have been known throughout Europe since the 1970s. Recently, the paradigm is moving and the US is starting to advocate for its use. Well-known studies document the direct correlation between xylitol use and reductions of the following: incidence of cavities, transmission of bacteria that cause cavities, and transmission of that bacteria from primary caregivers to children. While xylitol does not fight cavities directly, it changes the oral environment so that the cavity-causing bacteria is less likely to adhere to teeth, and this new environment is less favorable for cavity growth. Amazingly, long term studies of pregnant mothers exposed to xylitol show a lower incidence of cavities among their children, when compared to the children of pregnant mothers not exposed Xylitol.
How do I use Xylitol?
Xylitol five times daily in separate intervals makes harmful plaque slippery and more easily removed from teeth by brushing, flossing, rinsing. Daily use of 6.5 grams of xylitol in divided amounts can help reduce cavity bacteria over time. Look for xylitol in gum, mints, gummies, lollipops and toothpaste. Using Xylitol in conjunction with your fluoride exposure (toothpaste and tap water) is becoming the gold standard of excellent oral health and low cavity risk. Talk your dentist about the correct regimen of xylitol, fluoride, and both.
Not all sugar substitutes are created equal!
The names are similar, but xylitol and sorbitol are not the same. In fact, sorbitol can interfere with tooth remineralization and may promote acid reflux. Ensure that you only use xylitol products that are 100% xylitol, and contain no added sorbitol.