Andra Mahoney, BS RDH
What is Xylitol?
What if I told you there was a sugar that actually prevents cavities? Would you believe me? Well, you should! And it called Xylitol (pronounced zai-li-tall).
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a naturally occurring sweetener found in plants, fruits, and vegetables. It looks and tastes just like sugar (sucrose). Xylitol has about a third the calories as table sugar, and is a healthy alternative for diabetics. Not only does it make an excellent sugar substitute, but it aids in the prevention of dental caries, and reduces plaque formation.
How does it help prevent cavities?
Everyone has bacteria in their mouth all the time. Bacteria is highly attracted to the sugars found in the foods and beverages that we eat and drink. Most people think this means sweets, candies, etc. While that is true, it also can mean carbohydrates (which are complex sugars) or fruit (which has fructose, a sugar) or any number of things. The bacteria in our mouths eat all those sugars and excrete acid. That acid is what causes cavities.
Now bacteria is way more attracted to xylitol than regular sugar. The Bacteria head right for xylitol! But bacteria cannot break down xylitol. Meaning if they can’t “eat” it, they can’t excrete it. The bacteria dies not able to make acid to cause cavities. That is how xylitol can help prevent cavities!
How does it help dry mouth?
Many things, including prescription medications, can cause dry mouth. But why is dry mouth such a big deal? Dry mouth can effect you quality of life! It decreases your ability to taste. It can cause bad breathe. It can make eating difficult. It can make talking difficult. It can even significantly increase your susceptibility to getting cavities!
Xylitol has a cooling effect, quenching the burning of dry mouth. Xylitol also stimulates saliva flow, which fixes all of the problems previously mentioned. Xylitol is also an humectant, which means it attracts moisture. And Xylitol neutralized saliva’s pH. An acid pH leads to dry mouth, a basic pH can lead to an overgrowth of plaque bacteria. Nice neutral pH is where your mouth is the happiest!
Who can have Xylitol?
Xylitol is safe for all ages! Great for the whole family!
Even diabetics can use xylitol. “The body does not require insulin to metabolize xylitol. For this reason polyols like xylitol produce a lower glycemic response than sucrose or glucose. This has made xylitol a widely used sweetener for the diabetic diet in some countries. If you do have diabetes, however, it’s important to consult your doctor or diet professional before incorporating xylitol into your daily diet. (1)”
And, like chocolate, onions, raisins, or avocados, xylitol is not safe for our 4-legged furry family members. Please do not share it with them.
Where can you find Xylitol?
Xylitol can be found in a wide array of products. Most commonly, chewing gum, candies, and mints. It is also found in tooth pastes, mouth sprays, and even as granulated crystals to replace table sugar.
Hope this has been informative and you have found a new way to incorporate the many benefits of Xylitol in your life!
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