We have blogged in the past on our website about xylitol and how it can help prevent tooth decay. Today we are going to let you know a little more about how it helps prevent decay and offer you some products that you can use to introduce xylitol into your oral health routine.
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol. It is found naturally in some fruits. The xylitol that is used in most products today come from either birch bark or from corn cobs. Xylitol is often used as a sweetener in toothpastes and sugarless gums, but not in any quantity that will help prevent decay. In order to get the most benefit from xylitol, we recommend that you get 6-10 g of xylitol (or 5 exposures to xylitol rich products) per day.
Under normal conditions the bacteria that cause tooth decay consume sugar and produce acid which erodes your tooth enamel. When you use xylitol products, the bacteria consume the xylitol and attempt to metabolize it, but cannot. This causes the bacteria to die. Using xylitol products is a great way to help control the bacteria population in your mouth. By lowering the population of bad bacteria in your mouth you can help prevent tooth decay and enamel erosion.
Xylitol is low in calories and has the low glycemic index of 7 (compared to sugar’s 83), so it is a great sugar substitute for diabetics. Sometimes people complain that consuming xylitol can cause gastric issues. This doesn’t usually occur until you eat over 50 g of xylitol. If you are concerned about this effect, you can use xylitol products that you don’t eat – such as tooth paste and mouth rinses. You can also try introducing xylitol gradually to your diet to learn your tolerance.
Adding Xylitol to Your Oral Health Routine
An easy way to get your 5 exposures a day is by adding a xylitol toothpaste or mouth rinse to your oral hygiene routine in the morning, afternoon, and night. As we stated earlier, xylitol is used as a sweetener in many toothpastes, but you should be looking for toothpaste that has xylitol as one of the first ingredients to make sure you are getting a xylitol rich toothpaste. At our Evanston dental office we recommend using Spry xylitol toothpaste with fluoride. Spry Toothpaste is 25% xylitol. The xylitol will help control your bacteria population in your mouth while the fluoride will help to rebuild your enamel.
If you are looking for fluoride free toothpaste for your young children, try Spry Tooth Gel. This gel is formatted with both xylitol and calcium to help promote healthy teeth. It is all natural and safe to swallow for kids. Spry Tooth Gel is a great learning toothpaste for children that actually helps their oral health.
To round out the remaining exposures, you can use one of many different xylitol products. Xylitol gum is great to chew after meals. Again, make sure you choose a product that is rich in xylitol. Some gums are advertised as xylitol gum, but don’t have enough xylitol to effect the bacteria population.
There are also xylitol candies that you can eat as a sweet treat after meals. Our Evanston dentists like Dr. John’s xylitol lollipops and Spry’s SparX xylitol candies. As the food you eat is converted to acid that erodes your enamel, brushing your teeth right after eating can exacerbate this problem and do more harm than good. Eating xylitol candy or chewing gum after the meal helps reduce the pH in your mouth which in turn reduces the harm from acid erosion.
Finally, a simple way to add xylitol to your diet is to cook with it. Granulated xylitol looks just like table sugar and can be substituted in most recipes at a 1:1 ratio. The one big exception is bread and other foods that use yeast. Yeast cannot consume xylitol, so it is not recommended to substitute sugar for xylitol in any bread recipes!
Adding xylitol to your diet and oral health routine is an easy way to help control the bacteria in your mouth and as a result prevent tooth decay. In the past your dentist may have told you to stay away from sweets, but with xylitol you can satisfy your sweet tooth without worrying about getting more cavities. To learn more about xylitol visit xylitol.org or the xylitol section on our blog.