Refined table sugar (sucrose) has been in the health spotlight for some time now. While its effects on nutrition and general health are just now gaining attention, its effect on dental health, particularly as a food source for bacteria that cause tooth decay, has been known for decades.
In recent years, though, a different kind of natural sugar known as xylitol has come into popularity. Mutans Streptococci, the main bacteria responsible for tooth decay, is unable to break down and consume this alcohol-based sugar as it can with sucrose. What’s more, there’s evidence that xylitol can actually “starve” the offending bacteria and reduce its levels in the mouth. Xylitol also helps to reduce the level of acid in saliva and supports this vital fluid in its role of balancing the mouth’s pH level. By helping maintain a more pH neutral environment, xylitol can help prevent decay from even starting and promote the production of bacteria that doesn’t produce acid.
One of the most prevalent ways to include xylitol in your diet is through chewing gum. Researchers have found xylitol chewing gum can significantly reduce the risk of tooth decay, especially by inhibiting the decay process. Its reaction with saliva also contributes to the process of hardening the mineral content of enamel, a further inhibition to tooth decay.
Depending on your risk factors for dental disease, we might direct you to chew two pieces of xylitol gum for five minutes after meals and snacks, up to four times a day. Our target dose is about one to two teaspoons spread out during the day. If chewing gum is problematic or undesirable, it’s also possible to receive the recommended dosage of xylitol through hard candy, mints and oral products like toothpaste, mouthwash or sprays that contain the sugar.
Depending on your risk factors, a daily dosage of xylitol in chewing gum and other products can change the environment in your mouth for the better. A few minutes of gum chewing after meals and snacks might provide you the winning edge in the battle against tooth decay.
If you would like more information on the benefits and uses of xylitol, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Xylitol in Chewing Gum.”