Xylitol may reduce the risk of tooth decay.
Xylitol is a naturally occurring sweetener that can be extracted from fruits and vegetables and used like sugar. Its chemical structure has five carbons, whereas sugar has six carbons. Xylitol looks and tastes like sugar, but it’s not sugar! It is a low calorie sweetener with only 2.4 calories per gram (one-third the calories as sugar).[i] Xylitol was first discovered by Fischer, a German chemist, in 1890.[ii] It has been used as a sweetener since the 1960s.[iii] Since, it has gained popularity due to its ability to fight plaque. Xylitol is also good for diabetics and is a good tasting sugar substitute.[iv]
Most of us have had our dentist or dental hygienist ask, “Do you use xylitol gum or mints?” And I’m sure most of us mumble or show then a package of sugarfree gum that states “with xylitol.” However, most of these products have xylitol are the third or sometimes even fourth ingredients. Fresh-Tips is sweetened with xylitol as the main ingredient. Why is this important? It’s important because xylitol fights cavities. Xylitol has been shown to reduce cavities by 85%![v] Every time we eat, bacteria is left in our mouth. This bacteria becomes plaque and makes for an acidic environment. This acid is terrible for our teeth and eats away at the enamel causing cavities. Xylitol is able to fight the bacteria in our mouth, thereby decreasing the acid and cavities. The American Dental Association recommends using xylitol and in addition to an oral hygiene regimen is beneficial in reducing cavities. [vi] Also, in a systematic review by a Harvard professor, children that use xylitol experience a reduced rate of cavities compared to those that use sugar or non-sugar sweeteners such a sorbitol.[vii] It is recommended to consume xyiltol throughout the day to reduce cavities. To receive the best effect it is advised to consume a minimum of 5-10mg daily to reduce the cavity causing bacteria in the mouth.[viii]
Xylitol can remineralize enamel and prevent future cavities. Because xylitol decreases the amount of acid in the mouth it allows tooth enamel to rebuild and remineralize. Xyiltol also promotes salivation which decreases dry mouth and assists in remineralization and cavity prevention. In a study done with school children in Belize, 1,277 children chewed gum several times a day. One group was given ordinary gum sweetened with sucrose; another group was given gum sweetened with sorbitol or xylitol. After 40 months of gum chewing the xylitol group experienced 73% fewer caries, the sorbitol group experienced a reduction of 26%, and an increase of 120% of caries was seen in the sucrose group. [ix] Since, many other studies with xylitol have been performed and the evidence is strong that xyiltol reduces cavities and promotes tooth demineralization.
Additional Notes about Xyiltol:
Xylitol consumed in large quantities can cause GI irritation. Xylitol cannot be metabolized by dogs and could be poisonous if dogs consume.
[v] O’Hehir, Trisha, RDH, MS. “Recommending Xyitol to Patients.” Hygienetown Nov. 2010.
[viii] Ward, Thomas DMD, MPH. “Reducing Caries Incidence by Permanently Altering the Oral Flora with Xylitol.”