One of the many great functions of xylitol is its ability to limit oral bacteria growth. Cavities and plaque are caused by bacteria in the mouth feeding off of the sugars (especially sucrose) that you eat during the day. The more sugar the bacteria eats, the more energy the bacteria has, allowing them to multiply and produce acid that can wear away tooth enamel. However, oral bacteria can’t digest xylitol, so they are essentially starved out of the mouth. Less bacteria means less acid, and less acid means less cavities! There is also some evidence that xylitol might also help restore damaged enamel. Saliva has naturally occurring salts and minerals that helps harden softened enamel. Xylitol has been shown to increase the percentages of these naturally occurring minerals, which increases the pH of the saliva (making the saliva more basic). When the pH is higher, calcium and salts can move into areas of weakened enamel to help restore the tooth’s surface.
In order to get the most benefit out of xylitol it is important to expose your mouth to 100% xylitol frequently, about 4-5 times a day. It is also important to limit the consumption of other sugars and artificial sweeteners, including maltitol and sorbitol, because they will diminish the effectiveness of the xylitol. Since you are trying to starve out the bacteria from your mouth, eating more sugar will only undermine the antibacterial properties of the xylitol by feeding the bacteria. A great way to ensure optimal exposure to xylitol is to use toothpaste and mouthwash with xylitol in the morning and before bed, and to chew xylitol sweetened gum after every meal. You can also further increase your xylitol consumption by sweetening your coffee and tea with it.
If you’re interested in purchasing xylitol products, be sure to check out www.xylitoluse.com. Groceries like Whole Foods sells Emerald Forest Sugars, a company that sells xylitol sweeteners that are sustainably produced in the USA. They can also be ordered online! Make sure that xylitol is the first in the ingredient list or else there may not be enough to actively make a difference.
DIABETIC WARNING: Even though xylitol is not sucrose, that does not mean it can’t dangerously spike your blood sugar! Please consult your physician before using xylitol on a regular basis.
If you have more questions regarding the benefits and usage of Xylitol, feel free to ask any of our dental hygienists! (especially Sam) They would be more than happy to keep you informed.
(Xylitol information taken from http://www.xylitol.org/dental-benefits-of-xylitol)