Starting use for dental health care back in 1975, Xylitol is one of nature’s most powerful weapons against dental decay! Xylitol is a naturally occurring substance that has been clinically shown to create long-lasting or permanent results on restoring and remineralizing tooth enamel. Used commonly as a sweetener, it is found in many different oral health care products and gums/candies. Let’s get into exactly what it is and how it works to improve our smiles!
What is Xylitol? Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol used frequently as a sweetener. Pure xylitol, a white crystalline substance that looks and tastes like sugar, is derived primarily from forest and agricultural materials. While present in many fruits and vegetables, xylitol also occurs naturally in the body, produced during metabolism. The sweetener is widely available in a variety of forms such as candy, toothpaste, mouthwash, floss, chewing gum, mints, and as a bulk sweetener. It differs from other sugar substitutes such as saccharin and aspartame, which are chemically produced and very acidic during the breakdown in the mouth.
What are its benefits for oral health? Consumption of xylitol has been shown to reduce tooth decay and the incidence of gum disease. Xylitol’s molecular structure slows the growth of S. mutans, one of the most harmful bacteria in the mouth, on the tooth surfaces. This stops the production of tooth decay-causing acid and neutralizes the pH level in saliva and plaque. A neutral pH prevents further enamel destruction. Studies have shown that the number of acid-producing bacteria may decrease as much as 90 percent in the presence of Xylitol. Since xylitol slows destruction and enables some rebuilding of the enamel, it helps prevent new cavities from forming and over time can reverse tooth decay that has not yet reached the inner layers of the tooth.
Are there any risk factors? Daily use of xylitol in oral care has shown remarkable effectiveness with no major side effects. Several dental associations as well as Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recognize the benefits of xylitol and approve its use for oral care. In 1983, a joint expert committee of the World Health Organization and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations confirmed that xylitol is a safe sweetener for food. While completely safe for us humans, it is very toxic for dogs. Don’t use this product in any of your oral health regimens for your furry friends!
We highly recommended using these products daily for oral health benefits and protection from decay! The recommendation for the use of Xylitol is frequency rather than quantity. Especially if you are at higher risk of decay from things such as dry mouth, frequent consumption of sugars such as soda, and/or history of multiple areas of decay, then it is especially important to incorporate something like xylitol or fluoride into your daily routine multiple times through your day. Using a rinse morning and night, and then a xylitol gum or candy throughout your day can have outstanding effects on reducing your chances of developing dental decay.
Here are some of our favorite brands/products with xylitol:
TheraBreath is an amazing rinse that is formulated with Xylitol and focuses on eliminating bad breath but also promoting oral health. One great thing about TheraBreath that we like to tell our patients is that this is a very mild, no burn, rinse. Very gently on the gingiva. We love this brand because it is easy to find- Walmart and all major stores carry this product.
Spry is the go-to when it comes to Xylitol gums and candies. These alternative gums and candies can be challenging to find in stores- unfortunately. That is why Xylitol doesn’t have a stronger presence in the communities. These can always be found in the health food stores- particularly for Springfield at Mama Jeans with many varieties and flavors. They also carry toothpaste and mouth rinses that are similar to TheraBreath in that they are extra gentle on the gum tissue and contain aloe vera that is very soothing!
Let your dental team member know if you have any questions regarding Xylitol, and what products would be best for you!