The Dental Benefits of Xylitol
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Xylitol is a lower-calorie natural sugar substitute with a low glycemic index and fewer calories than sugar. Some research suggests that it can improve dental health, prevent ear infections, and provide antioxidant benefits. Xylitol is a common ingredient in products such as sugar-free chewing gum and toothpaste. It is also sometimes used as a sweetener in candy, drinks, jams, and baked goods. In today’s blog post we’ll talk about why our team at Prescott Dentistry is excited about the many dental benefits of xylitol!
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol, which is a type of carbohydrate—but don’t worry, it doesn’t actually contain alcohol. Xylitol occurs naturally in small amounts in fibrous fruits and vegetables, trees, corncobs, and even in the human body. It can be processed from trees like birch, and it can also be manufactured industrially from a plant fiber called Xylan.
Xylitol can be used as a sugar substitute because its sweetness is comparable with that of table sugar, but with 40% fewer calories. It also has a low glycemic index because it doesn’t contain fructose. That just means that it doesn’t spike blood sugar and insulin levels like table sugar does, which can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.
What are the Dental Benefits of Xylitol?
In addition to many health benefits xylitol offers, it is also good for our teeth!
Several studies show that xylitol can reduce cavities and tooth decay by as much as 30-85%. Streptococcus mutans is the bacteria that is commonly responsible for the buildup of plaque on our teeth. Sugar feeds the bacteria, but xylitol starves it. This is because xylitol is non-fermentable, which means that the bacteria in the mouth cannot convert it into the harmful acid that causes tooth decay. So using xylitol instead of sugar reduces the amount of fuel for the harmful bacteria.
This 2017 systematic review shows that xylitol can reduce the amount of S. mutans bacteria in the mouth, which reduces the amount of plaque and may help prevent tooth decay. It found that xylitol chewing gum is an effective way to experience the dental benefits. Check out our blog post on chewing xylitol gum.
A 2014 study found that xylitol can also reduce the amount of P. gingivalis, the bacteria that is responsible for the gum disease gingivitis, and for systemic inflammation.
Xylitol is Toxic to Dogs!
Be aware that xylitol is highly toxic to dogs and can lead to hypoglycemia, liver failure, and potentially death. If you have any products that contain xylitol be sure that it is completely out of reach for your dog. If you suspect that your dog might have consumed any amount of xylitol, take him or her to the vet immediately.
Come visit us at Prescott Dentistry!
As you can see, the dental benefits of xylitol are numerous, including reducing plaque, gum inflammation, and cavities. But it’s still important for you to keep up with your regular oral hygiene and your biannual dental checkups with us at Prescott Dentistry. If you have any more questions about the benefits of xylitol, be sure to ask us at your next appointment!