The Benefits of Xylitol in Cavity Prevention

Xylitol is a natural form of sugar that can be used in cavity prevention!  It’s cavity fighting properties were first discovered by the Scandinavian countries during sugar shortages in Europe in the 1940’s.  By the 1960’s it was observed that individuals using this sweetener seemed to have fewer cavities.  Shortly after, scientific studies confirmed the safety of Xylitol as a nutritive sweetener for the replacement of sucrose (ordinary sugar) in the diet.  Xylitol has bee approved by the FDA since the 1960’s as a nutritive sweetener. 

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol (polyol) derived most commonly from corn cobs, corn stalks, and birch trees.  It’s unique sugar molecular structure contains only 5 carbon atoms versus the 6 carbon atoms found in the common sugar sucrose.  Xylitol can be found occurring naturally in berries, fruits, vegetables, and mushrooms.  Considerable amounts of Xylitol also occur in the body as an intermediary byproduct resulting from human carbohydrate metabolism.

How does Xylitol work to prevent cavities?

  • It reduces plaque (bacteria) formation
  • Antimicrobial
  • Inhibits enamel demineralization by reducing acid production by bacteria
  • Increases salivary flow
  • Directly inhibits the effect of the S. Mutans bacteria that causes tooth decay

Who can benefit from using Xylitol?

  • Those individuals who are moderate to high risk for dental decay
  • Expectant mothers- reducing oral bacteria and its transmission to infants shortly after birth.

Tooth decay occurs when bacteria in your mouth metabolize the sugars we eat to produce acid that weakens the enamel.  Sucrose (ordinary sugar) is the fuel for this process.  Therefore, eating foods high in sucrose make your teeth susceptible to cavities.

Eating food containing ordinary sugar (sucrose) is the fuel the bacteria need in order for this “acid attack” to occur.

Xylitol protects the teeth from tooth decay by preventing bacteria from sticking to the teeth. It is a natural sweetener derived from the fibrous parts of plants, does not break down like sugar and can help maintain a neutral pH level in the mouth. Because bacteria in the mouth that cause cavities are unable to digest xylitol, their growth is greatly reduced.

By consuming 3-5 doses of xylitol per day, the number of acid-producing bacteria may fall as much as 80%. Acid does not form because the pH of saliva and plaque does not fall. After consuming xylitol, the bacteria do not stick to the surface of the teeth and as a result, the amount of plaque decreases.

Consuming products with xylitol is not a replacement for good dental care. It is still important to have regular dental check ups and maintain a healthy balanced diet.

If you are interested in trying products containing xylitol, our San Diego dentists carry a variety of Dr. John’s Xylitol Products: lollipops, Spry fruit candy (like nerds) and Spry xylitol mints. Some sugar-free gums, like Trident, also have xylitol. For best results, 3-5 doses per day are recommended. If you have any questions, just give us a call at (904) 215-7800.

For more information, please read the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s: Guideline on Xylitol Use in Caries Prevention

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