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Your Ashburn Dentist Recommends Xylitol Gum

A girl blowing chew gum

You may have heard about xylitol gum and candies lately as a way to help prevent cavities. Your Ashburn dentist does recommend xylitol products as a natural way to improve oral health. Xylitol is a natural “sugar alcohol” similar to other so-called sugar alcohols such as mannitol and sorbitol used as sugarless sweeteners. Xylitol is a naturally occurring diabetic-safe, low-calorie carbohydrate that is obtained form the bark of birch trees, coconut shells and cottonseed hulls. However, it looks and tastes like sugar and is comparable in sweetness. It is also found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, including corn, raspberries, and plums.

Unlike sucrose (regular table sugar), the main culprit associated with tooth decay, xylitol is not broken down by the most prominent decay causing bacteria to produce acid. In effect, xylitol starves these particular bacteria to the point where it is almost like removing sugar from the diet completely.

Researchers have found that systematic use of xylitol chewing gum significantly reduces the relative risk of caries (tooth decay) when compared to chewing gums containing sorbitol/xylitol and sucrose. Additionally, xylitol gum is more frequently associated with halting the progression of very tiny cavities versus other combinations of chewing gum. The use of other products containing xylitol such as mints, candy, and cookies has shown a decreased incidence of dental caries by arresting active decay.

Another benefit of using xylitol-containing products is that it increases salivary flow along with its acid neutralizing properties to cause a sort of natural reconditioning of teeth following an acid attack. In other words, the reaction between xylitol and your salvia’s mineral-rich calcium and fluoride content contribute to the hardening of your teeth. And this benefit is not confined just to children, but rather is extended to many adults who experience dry mouth. The only side effect of too much xylitol ingestion is that it may have a mild laxative effect.

The amount of xylitol needed for benefits against caries is slowly being refined. Current recommendations for moderate, high, and extreme caries-risk patients includes consuming two pieces of xylitol gum or two pieces of xylitol hard candy/mints for five minutes following meals or snacks four times daily. The target dose of xylitol is 1-2 teaspoons spread throughout the day. However, because excessive or prolonged gum chewing is not advised, most xylitol-sweetened products contain flavor that only lasts a short time to discourage excessive chewing. Adults who experience dry mouth or senior citizens who may not like to chew gum because of occlusion (bite) problems have the option of using xylitol in mints, candies, mouthwash, toothpaste, or mouth sprays. For these individuals, a minimum dose is 1 teaspoon three times per day.

So yes, xylitol really is a different kind of “sugar” that is effective at fighting tooth decay and not just for your children. If you have additional questions about your oral health and would like to schedule a dental consultation in Ashburn, please contact us today.