What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a white crystalline substance that looks and tastes like sugar and is used as a sugar substitute. As a sugar alcohol sweetener, it does not affect blood sugar levels. It also has a low glycemic index of 13 and lower in calories than sugar.
How Xylitol Works
Bacteria that cause tooth decay, love anything that ferments on the teeth. Fermentable sugars include simple carbohydrates such as table sugar, meat and white flour products. The bacteria that cause cavities are mostly mutans streptococci. These bad bacteria turn the sugars into acid and start the process of destroying tooth structure.
It appears that xylitol inhibits mutans stroptococci from sticking to the tooth surface and causing damage. (Journal of Dental Research; 85:177-181).
Most of the studies so far have been with xylitol containing chewing gum. Chewing 2 pieces of xylitol gum after meals for 5 minutes, means lowering tooth decay risk by up to 70%. (American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry; 2006: Policy on the Use of Xylitol in Caries Prevention).
Summary of Xylitol Benefits
- Xylitol is safe if swallowed, unlike fluoride which FDA (Food & Drug Administration) requires a warning for.
- Is a sugar alcohol and will not affect blood glucose levels.
- Helps with dry mouth by increasing saliva.
- Helps neutralize pH of saliva, and helps prevent damage from harmful bacteria.
- Helps remineralize (repair) areas of enamel that have just started to be damaged.
- Helps prevent ear infections in children. (Pediatrics; 1998; 102:879-884)
- Early studies are suggesting xylitol may also help prevent periodontal disease (gum disease). (Spec Care Dent; 1996; 16:104-115).