Dental Benefits of Xylitol on Gums and Preventing Teeth Cavities

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If you’ve got a sweet tooth but are prone to tooth decay, you might want to check out xylitol – a sweetener that satiates your sweet cravings and keeps your teeth in pristine condition. 

Dental Benefits of Xylitol

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol – a naturally occurring five-carbon sugar.  Although extracted from fruits and vegetables, it is classified as an artificial sweetener. 

Identical to table sugar in sweetness, xylitol contains 40% fewer calories. While regular store-bought sugar has 4 calories per gram, xylitol only has 2.4 calories per gram.

It is therefore used as a sugar substitute for diabetic-friendly diets. It is a common ingredient in sugar-free candies, chewing gums, and mints. Additionally, it is often sold in higher concentrations in oral health products.

Uses of Xylitol

There are many potential health benefits of xylitol such as:

Has a low glycemic index

Regular sugar can spike blood sugar and insulin levels due to its high levels of fructose, causing insulin resistance and other metabolic problems. A study found that xylitol contains zero fructose and has minimal effects on blood sugar and insulin.

This is measured through the glycemic index (GI) – a number from 0 to 100 to measure how quickly a food raises blood sugar. Xylitol’s GI is 7 whereas regular sugar’s is 60 to 70.

The effectiveness of xylitol in lowering blood sugar makes it a prime candidate for weight-friendly diets. Therefore, xylitol is recommended for diabetic or prediabetic individuals.

Reduces ear infections

Researchers have investigated xylitol use in preventing middle ear infections ( otitis media) in children. A study observed that the daily usage of xylitol-sweetened gum reduced the infection rate by 40% in children with recurring ear infections.

Fights yeast infections

Uses of Xylitol

There is evidence that xylitol is effective in fighting yeast infections caused by fungi, Candida albicans.

Oral Health Benefits of Xylitol

The positive effects of xylitol on dental health are undeniable. This is why many dentists recommend using xylitol instead of sugar-sweetened chewing gum. 

Preventing dental caries

The most well-known oral health benefit of xylitol is its ability to prevent dental decay. One of the leading causes of tooth decay is an oral bacteria called Streptococcus mutans. This bacteria is responsible for plaque production.

As there is excess plaque accumulation on the tooth surfaces, the acids produced by the bacteria can attack the dental enamel, causing cavitation.

A randomized control trial assessed the effect of xylitol on dental caries in children. They found that in the xylitol group, the incidence of dental caries about the control was significantly reduced.

In another study, xylitol-sweetened gum reduced the levels of harmful bacteria in the mouth by 27 to 75%.  Friendly bacteria levels were not hindered.

Reducing Plaque

Regular sugar can be broken down by bacteria. However, bacteria cannot ferment xylitol and produce acid from it. Therefore, the harmful bacteria starve and the bacteria end up dying. 

Xylitol consumers have reported seeing less plaque on their teeth and below the gum after the consumption of xylitol chewing gum. Some reports even suggest that xylitol reduces dental plaque by up to 90%. 

Other Oral Health Benefits 

Reducing the risk of gum disease: Excess plaque on your teeth can send signals to your immune system to attack the bacteria in it, leading to inflammatory gum disease like gingivitis. Chewing xylitol gum has proven to reduce the chances of gum disease and inflammation.

Since inflammation is the root cause of many chronic diseases, by fighting plaque and gum disease, you can ultimately benefit your mouth and the rest of your body.

Alleviating dry mouth symptoms: There is a direct effect of consumption of xylitol chewing gum on salivary flow rate. Like any other natural sweetener, xylitol increases salivary flow. Increased salivary flow washes away stray debris from your teeth surfaces and promotes the mineralization of your teeth.

Reducing Plaque Xylitol

Forms of Xylitol & Methods of Use

What products contain xylitol?

There are numerous forms of xylitol available in the market. The most commonly used products include xylitol gum and xylitol candies (such as mints, caramels, and chocolates), endorsed by six national dental associations.

Other products include xylitol mouth spray or wash, nasal spray, toothpaste, and dental floss. You can also find it as a natural bulk sweetener. While purchasing look for products containing 100% xylitol without high levels of acid.

Recommended dosage for dental benefits

For the cavity-causing bacteria to die, the number of times you’re exposed to xylitol throughout the day is more important than the amount of xylitol you take at a time. 

The California Dental Association (CDA) recommends you use xylitol-containing products three to five times daily (total intake of 5 g) to prevent cavities.

A suggested method for achieving 5 exposures of xylitol a day is:

  • Toothpaste or mouthwash in the morning
  • Gum or candy after breakfast
  • Gum or candy after lunch
  • Gum or candy after dinner
  • Toothpaste, dental floss, or mouthwash before bed

Conclusion

Numerous reports suggest that xylitol helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease. If you’re interested in taking xylitol, plan a dental visit to discuss your options with your dentist before you begin taking it.

FAQs

Is Xylitol safe?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved xylitol as a food additive in 1986. High amounts of xylitol can cause diarrhea and intestinal gas. It is safe for humans, however, even in small amounts can be fatal to dogs.

Are there risks to using Xylitol chewing gum?

While it is safe in all its forms up to 50 g, exposure to xylitol in high doses long-term might cause tumors. Maternal xylitol consumption is also highly debated, so you may want to avoid it if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

Can you find xylitol in foods?

Xylitol occurs in foods such as raspberries, mushrooms, corn, and oats. Since foods containing xylitol are often found in low levels, they aren’t sufficient for preventing dental cavities.

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