Yes! Because xylitol is a non-fermentable sugar alcohol, it cannot be digested by oral bacteria, and so it cannot produce acids that are harmful to dental health. Bacteria can digest other sugars and produce acids which lower the pH of the mouth (make it more acidic) and contribute to the erosion of tooth enamel, the production of plaque, gum inflammation/disease, cavities (“caries”), and tooth loss.
Xylitol is not artificial – it is found naturally in fruit, vegetables, and tree and plant fibers. It’s very sweet, but does not contain the caloric concentration that cane sugar, honey and other sweeteners do. It used to be very expensive compared to other sugars, but the price is gradually dropping and it is becoming a popular sugar-free substitute in foods, medications and dental products.
Our Southfield Dentist office advocates the use of products sweetened by xylitol to optimize oral health – things such as gum, mints, hard candy, toothpastes and mouthwashes. (Check the labels.) Various studies have shown a correlation between xylitol consumption and reduced dental decay. The bad news is that studies show that an intake of five grams of xylitol over the course of a 24-hour period is ideal, however most over the counter sugarless gums contains only a fraction of a gram per piece! Trident, for instance, only contains 0.17 grams of xylitol per piece! It would take 25 pieces of Trident per day to get 5 grams! My advice is to check online and at health food stores. There are gums specifically formulated to have close to 1 gram xylitol per stick, which would require only 4-5 sticks per day. A very partial list includes:
- Epic Xylitol Gum
- ElimiTaste Zapp
- Spry Xylitol Gum
Sucking on xylitol hard candy or mints or chewing xylitol gum right after meals inhibits tooth staining and acid damage caused by bacterial metabolism. These products also reduce bacteria’s ability to adhere to the surface of teeth (make the teeth “slippier” to bacteria.) But chewing any sugarless gum after eating produces extra saliva which has a buffering and diluting effect on the acidic bacterial wastes which cause cavities, so they all can be helpful. But if you are willing to chew Xylitol gum often, it can be very helpful to patients that have ongoing decay problems even after reducing sugar between meals. Two websites that provide more information are Xylitol.com and Xylitolpreventscavities.com (this one lists gums that you can get online that have enough xylitol to be effective).
Xylitol-sweetened products should be used in conjunction with daily brushing and flossing, Fluoride containing toothpastes, good nutrition, and routine professional teeth cleaning (“prophylaxis”) and checkups. If you have further questions or concerns or if it’s been awhile since you’ve had your teeth cleaned or checked, call me, Dr. Mark W. Langberg, DDS, MAGD, at 248-356-8790. Our office address is 26206 West 12 Mile Road, Suite 303, Southfield, MI 48034-8501.
That’s all for today! Until next time,
Your Southfield Dentist,
Dr. Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD
26206 West 12 Mile Road, Suite 303
Southfield, MI 48034