Many of us feel guilty if we chew gum or eat sugary foods because we have been told that sugar is bad for our teeth. While this is completely true, most chewing gums and breath mints contain an ingredient that is actually good for our teeth. Chances are, if you chew gum or use breath mints, you have used this ingredient before. It is called xylitol.
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is often used as a substitute for sugar. It is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol, a compound frequently used in the place of table sugar. Xylitol sweetens foods and chewing gum, but doesn’t produce the oral health threats that sugar does. A study dating back as far as the 1970’s shows that xylitol is not harmful to the teeth and may actually reduce the risk of tooth decay.
How Does Xylitol Prevent Cavities?
At any given moment, your mouth is filled with harmful bacteria. These bacteria, especially the mutans streptococci strain, aggressively attack your teeth and cause cavities. When you eat sugary foods or drink sugary beverages, you provide nourishment for harmful bacteria, which feed off of sugar. However, when you consume xylitol, you attract these harmful bacteria, but starve them instead of feed them. Essentially, xylitol tricks bacteria into thinking it is a sugary food source. Xylitol disrupts the colonies of bacteria that form plaque and can protect your teeth from dental caries by reducing harmful calculus and bacterial buildup in the mouth. The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of xylitol and acknowledges the claim that xylitol is a great alternative to sugar.
What Are Other Benefits to Using Xylitol?
Due to the fact that xylitol starves harmful bacteria, consuming xylitol may reduce your risk for gum disease as well. Used in conjuction with a thorough oral hygiene regimen and regular dental examinations, you can greatly reduce the presence of harmful bacteria which also lead to periodontal disease through plaque buildup.
If you are concerned about dental caries, gum disease, or if it has been a while since your last dental checkup, schedule an appointment with Dr. Ann Kania today at (760) 642-0711. She can help you achieve optimum oral health and answer any questions you may have about preventing tooth decay. We proudly serve patients from Encinitas, La Costa, Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe, and the surrounding San Diego communities.