When you eat food containing ordinary sugar, it gives the bacteria in your mouth energy, allowing them to multiply and start making acids that can eat away the enamel of your teeth. This acid attack is what causes tooth decay.
Many parents are looking for alternatives to sugar, and xylitol is a wonderful choice. It’s safe and available in ready-to-consume forms for both children and adults.
What is xylitol?
Xylitol is a naturally occurring sweetener derived from the fibrous parts of plants. It protects teeth from tooth decay by preventing bacteria from sticking to the teeth.
How does xylitol prevent tooth decay?
Just like we need food for energy to work and play, bacteria need fuel for energy to grow and multiply. They get their fuel from the sugar in the food we eat. But bacteria can’t use xylitol as fuel. Without fuel, they are unable to grow and multiply and don’t produce the acids that eat away tooth enamel and cause cavities.
Another way xylitol prevents cavities is by keeping the pH level in your mouth neutral. The pH level in the mouth directly affects the health of our teeth and gums. Some foods, such as sugary beverages or snacks, increase the mouth’s acidity and lower the pH. Tooth decay can occur when the pH level in the mouth begins to fall below 5.5. Xylitol doesn’t break down like sugar and helps the pH in your mouth stay neutral.
Where is xylitol found?
- Xylitol is naturally found in some fruits and vegetables, such as plums, strawberries, cauliflower, and pumpkin.
- You can find it in most sugar-free candies and gum, toothpaste, and mouthwash.
- Xylitol can also be found as a sugar replacement in a crystalline powder that looks just like regular table sugar. It has a similar sweetness as regular sugar but contains 40% fewer calories. This is perfect to use as a replacement anytime you would use sugar, like coffee, tea, and baked goods. It is also a great sugar substitute for patients with diabetes, and safe for use in pregnancy and for nursing mothers.
For more information, please read the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s: Guideline on Xylitol Use in Caries Prevention
Preventing cavities is extremely important for dental health and consuming products with xylitol is not a replacement for good dental care. In addition to eating healthy, brushing for two minutes twice a day, flossing once a day, and scheduling regular checkups with Growing Healthy Smiles, adding xylitol to your oral health routine can be helpful.
If you have any questions about cavity prevention and xylitol, give us a call at (904) 215-7800!