One of the biggest dangers to our dental health is sugar. And it’s not just all that added sugar which overly sweetens our modern day foods, but any food that breaks down into glucose, including carbohydrates. That’s why keeping our processed and non-nutritive sugar intake at a minimum and implementing a good oral health care regimen at home is essential to overall oral health. At Country Club Dental Flagstaff, we have some sweet news for you: xylitol is an excellent alternative to processed sugar. Here are some of the dental benefits of xylitol and xylitol products that may be helpful for your oral and overall health.
The Dental Benefits of Xylitol
Xylitol—a sugar which is naturally occurring in certain fruits, vegetables, berries and even wood—has grown in popularity in recent years as a natural sweetener, and for good reason. For the last 40 years, it’s been studied for its effect on dental caries. While other sugars break down into food for harmful bacteria that spread in our mouths and cause plaque, tooth decay, and gum disease, xylitol is indigestible by bacteria. As a result, the presence of harmful bacteria in the mouth is greatly reduced. And because harmful bacteria produce acids that eat away at tooth enamel, fewer bacteria means a more balanced PH and healthier, stronger teeth. Research has even shown that the use of xylitol dental products could restore tooth enamel by producing a more alkaline saliva that remineralizes the teeth.
Another benefit of xylitol is that it contains 40% fewer calories than table sugar. Table sugar has 4 calories/gram, while xylitol only has 2.4 calories/gram. Xylitol also has a very low glycemic index and will not spike blood sugar levels or insulin production. That makes it a great option for diabetics as well.
Products Containing Xylitol
There are a number of products on the market that use xylitol as a natural, healthy alternative to sugar. When it comes to oral health care products, xylitol is used primarily in chewing gums, toothpaste, mouth sprays, and mints. It can be found as a sweetener in peanut butters, jams, hard candies, and chocolate. Xylitol also has other health benefits. It’s been shown to reduce ear and yeast infections and can be found in nasal sprays, ear drops and other yeast infection medications. Be sure to read labels carefully when selecting a xylitol-sweetened product or dental product to ensure that other ingredients are not negating the dental benefits of xylitol.
While there are many dental benefits of xylitol for humans, this sweetener is known to be poisonous to dogs. For their safety, be sure to store your xylitol products on high shelves or behind secure doors and cupboards that are out of reach from your curious pets.
As with any food or substance, xylitol should be used in moderation. On occasion, some individuals may experience gastric issues like gas, bloating, or diarrhea. This typically occurs when high doses are consumed—over 40g/day. A teaspoon of xylitol sweetener in your coffee or a piece of xylitol chewing gum should not cause any issues.
The Best Care is Preventive Care!
Though the dental benefits of xylitol are scientifically proven, as we’ve mentioned before, the best preventive oral health care is a great at-home routine. Make sure you are brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing at least once a day to keep the plaque away! And if you have any questions about your oral health or about xylitol dental products, we’re your local Flagstaff dentist, and we’re only a phone call away!
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