Xylitol – Reducing Cavities

Some children are particularly susceptible to tooth decay, even after receiving regular dental examinations and oral care at home. Adults, especially adults who have dry mouth, can also be susceptible.

Xylitol is a naturally occurring, artificial sugar that can be used to help recuse the incidence of tooth decay. 

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a natural substance that can be found in a variety of fruits and vegetables.  Some of the most common Xylitol- rich foods include: berries, mushrooms, corns, and lettuces.  Study results indicate that 4-20 grams of Xylitol each day, divided into three or more helpings, can reduce tooth decay and by as much as 70%.  As a point of reference, a single cup of berries contains a little less than one gram of Xylitol.

 Xylitol is also available as a sugar substitute, a gum, and as a concentrate in numerous health foods.  Chewing Xylitol-containing gum or dissolving a Xylitol-containing mint after eating can reduce the incidence of tooth decay.

It should be noted that excessive Xylitol consumption can cause gastrointestinal distress and does not provide “more” tooth protection.  Sticking to the recommended daily amount is enough to enhance other cavity-reduction efforts.

How does Xylitol work?

The combination of many factors increases susceptibility to  tooth decay. These factors include: oral care habits, diet, carbohydrate consumption, sucrose consumption, salivary flow rate, and tooth resistance to plaque.

More specifically, harmful oral bacteria feed on sugars and carbohydrates, producing acids.  When sugary foods are consumed, these acids attack and destroy vulnerable tooth enamel. Xylitol works to neutralize the acids, reducing enamel destruction, and minimizing the threat of cavities in the process.  Xylitol also stimulates saliva production, meaning that food particles, plaque and bacteria are continually removed from the teeth.  When used in combination with fluoride, Xylitol works to remineralize teeth, protecting tooth enamel and minimizing new cavity formation.

Although Xylitol gum is not suitable for very young children, infants actually benefit from maternal chewing!  Mothers of children between three months and two years old who used Xylitol gum several times each day, protected their child from tooth decay until the age of five years old.  In this case, Xylitol reduced the amount of microorganisms transmitted from mother to child.

If you have questions or concerns about Xylitol or tooth decay, please contact our practice.


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