What is Xylitol?


Lindsay Whitlock, RDH

“Xylitol is a natural sweetener derived from the fibrous parts of plants.”

What Are The Dental Benefits of Xylitol?

Splenda (Sucralose) is a commonly used artificial sweetener that one would use to sweeten their iced tea. Once you drink your sweet tea, your teeth are splashed with the sugary beverage, and the Splenda begins to break down in your mouth. Bacteria already thriving in your mouth are immediately drawn to the sugars on your teeth. During this process, the bacteria, for lack of better words, “poop” out acid onto your teeth, and begin the cavity process.

Xylitol does not break down in the mouth like typical sugars (Splenda). Because acid-producing bacteria cannot digest Xylitol, the growth of bacteria is greatly reduced in your mouth, up to 90%. After taking xylitol, the bacteria are unable to stick to the surfaces of your teeth, and thus results in decreased plaque.

Your saliva in your mouth is naturally trying to keep your mouth at a neutral pH, as one is ingesting sugars. If sugar is only consumed a couple times per day, the saliva can protect your mouth and teeth on its own. But for most, sugar is so often consumed that your natural defenses (saliva) are not enough, in the battle of cavity prevention. Xylitol can also increase a neutral pH saliva flow, which could decrease your risk of cavities.

Other Benefits of Xylitol?

  • Xylitol serves as an effective sugar substitute for diabetics and non-diabetics
  • Delicious sweet taste… with no unpleasant aftertaste
  • Provides one third fewer calories than sugar
  • May be useful as a sugar alternative for people with diabetes (on the advice of their healthcare providers)
  • It’s 100% natural. Xylitol is not an artificial substance, but a normal part of everyday metabolism. Xylitol is widely distributed throughout nature in small amounts
  • It’s safe
  • It’s convenient to use
  • Xylitol can be conveniently delivered to your teeth via chewing gum, tablets, or even candy. You don’t need to change your normal routine to make room for Xylitol

How Much, and How Often Should I use Xylitol?

Strive For 5:

  1. Use Xylitol toothpaste, mouthwash, and nasal spray upon waking up
  2. After breakfast use Xylitol gum, mints, or candy
  3. After lunch use Xylitol gum, mints, or candy
  4. After dinner use Xylitol gum, mints, or candy
  5. Use Xylitol toothpaste, mouthwash, and nasal spray upon going to bed

For a complete this of Xylitol containing products, follow this link: http://xylitol.org/xylitol-products

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The Dangers of Artifical Sweeteners

Recently Dr. Mehmet Oz did a segment on his TV show “Dr. OZ”  highlighting the dangers of artificial sweeteners, which not to our surprise has increasingly become America nemesis to our waistline and oral health. He illustrates Metabolic Syndrome as one of the main effects of artificial sweeteners. Metabolic Syndrome occurs when the taste buds located in lower parts of the digestive track (in the pancreas) release insulin are send a pleasure responses to the addiction center of the brain telling our bodies that it has received something sweet and enjoyable. The addiction center then starts to crave another sugar fix sending those needs for the pleasure producing taste back to the rest of your body. All in all creating a vicious cycle of repetition and sugar addition, which in turn is producing weight gain from the increased production of insulin from the pancreas and eventually can lead to insulin resistance and obesity.

In a large study in the 1970’s “Saccharin” was linked to bladder cancer, this once caused the sweetener to come with a warning label. Now many studies done by the Food and Drug Administration cannot find a substantial link between artificial sweeteners and cancer, but only when consumed in limited amounts. Now that artificial sweeteners have been cleared  by the FDA for consumption,  applications are sky rocketing. Studies link just one diet cola a day to Metabolic Syndrome which comes with its laundry list of health concerns in addition the build up belly fat.

Regardless of health effects and linked controversy of said sweeteners many foods (and drink) that are harmful to your dental and overall health contain artificial sweeteners as a primary ingredient. Modern diets and eating habits  have increased your tooth enamels exposure to  foods high in acid resulting acid erosion of your teeth. Eating everyday foods high in acid, many of which include artificial sweeteners can eventually soften your enamel. This makes wearing away tooth enamel by brushing and eating easier and becomes thinner over time. Thinner enamel can also look visibly dingy and less brilliant that will also leave your teeth susceptible to heat and cold sensations over time.

When it comes to food and drinks there is no comparison between water, natural fruits and vegetables and foods that are highly processed and sweetened. Sticking to a diet consisting of natural unsweetened foods and beverages will most definitely reduce your risks of some cancers and enamel erosion. However, there is no replacement for the “occasional” indulgence to keep the heart happy. Dont deprive yourself of the things you love, simply love them in moderation – And always brush your teeth after life’s simple indulgences.