Xylitol is naturally occuring sugar that comes from corn cos and birch trees. It has become popular as a sugar substitute and possibly dental hygiene game changer. It may seem strange that a sweetner can help with your dental healthy but we will go over the facts about xylitol here.
Many people are unaware that cavities are caused by an infectious transmissible disease that is caused by bacteria that live in your mouth called streptococcus mutans. When this bacteria feeds on sugar is produces acid that can cause enamel erosion, plaque production, cavities, gum disease and more.
Xylitol has specific properties that make it indigestible to bacteria which helps to decrease the number of bacteria and reduces the instances of cavities. Xylitol also changes the pH level in the mouth making it more alkaline which limits bacteria growth. The xylitol can create higher calcium levels in the saliva which can helps the enamel. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends 3 to 8 grams to reach the maximum benefits.
Xylitol can be found in gum, mints and candies, as a sugar substitute and syrups.
While xylitol is considered an option for fighting cavities there are also conflicting studies. Because xylitol is natural does not mean it is unprocessed. It is highly processed. Xylitol is also not calorie free. It is not sugar free but contains 40% fewer calories than sugar. It can still affect blood glucose levels unlike sweeteners like stevia. For some people xylitol can cause gastrointestinal issues. It may cause gas, bloating or diarrhea. It is advised that people with IBS avoid xylitol.
Xylitol is very dangerous for pets. It is important that you keep it away from pets and do not offer them food made with this sweetener. Xylitol can affect your dogs ability to produce insulin which can cause hypoglycemia or liver failure.
While xylitol may be helpful in preventing cavities it is not the only option. Xylitol is just one part of what should be a multi-faceted approach to dental hygiene. Chewing sugar free gum will not replace brushing your teeth but can be helpful for overall dental health. The dentist can be a great resource for additional options to help prevent cavities and other dental issues. They are also a great resource for studies and facts about products like xylitol.
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