What is Xylitol?
Pure xylitol is a white, crystalline, natural substance that looks and tastes like sugar. On food labels, xylitol is classified broadly as a carbohydrate and more narrowly as a polyol. Because xylitol is only slowly absorbed and partially utilized, a reduced calorie claim is allowed: 2.4 calories per gram or 40% less than other sugars.
Xylitol has been used in foods since the 1960's. It is a popular sweetener for the diabetic diet in many countries. In the U.S., xylitol is approved as a food additive in unlimited quantity for foods with special dietary purposes. Pound for pound, xylitol's sweetness is equal to sugar.
Over 25 years of testing, in widely different conditions, confirms that xylitol is the best sweetener for teeth. Xylitol use reduces tooth decay rates both in high-risk groups (high caries prevalence, poor nutrition, and poor oral hygiene) and also in low risk groups (low caries incidence using all current prevention recommendations). Sugar-free chewing gums and candies made with xylitol as the principal sweetener have already received official endorsements from six national dental associations.
Why Use Xylitol?
Studies using xylitol as either a sugar substitute or a small dietary addition have demonstrated a dramatic reduction in new tooth decay, along with arrest and even some reversal of existing dental caries. Xylitol provides additional protection that enhances all existing prevention methods such as fluoride usage. This xylitol effect is long lasting and possibly permanent. Low decay rates appear to persist even years after the trials have been completed. It also helps improve bad breath.
Xylitol is a natural substance widely distributed throughout nature in small amounts. Some of the best sources are fruits, berries, mushrooms, lettuce, hardwoods and corncobs. In fact, our bodies produce microscopic amounts of xylitol from other food sources using established energy pathways.
Chewing is a natural process and chewing gums provide some exercise lacking in a refined diet. If chewing gum is uncomfortable, xylitol mints, candies or toothpaste can also be used to inhibit plaque growth as xylitol is a natural tooth protector.
In the amounts needed to prevent tooth decay, xylitol is safe. In some sensitive people, larger amounts of xylitol could cause a loosening of the bowels. If this should occur, reduce intake of xylitol products. Adaptation to larger amounts of xylitol usually takes less than 2 weeks.
Xylitol can be conveniently delivered to your teeth via chewing gum, mints, toothpaste or even candy. You can implement your xylitol program anywhere, anytime. It fits right in with the most frantic schedules. You don't need to change your normal routine to make room for xylitol.
Some health regimens require iron willpower, discipline, and commitment. But xylitol tastes so good that it becomes automatic. Children love it! No more nagging.
How To Use Xylitol
In order to get the best dental benefits of xylitol, look for products sweetened with xylitol that encourage chewing or sucking which keeps the xylitol in contact with your teeth for a longer period of time. The best products use xylitol as the principal sweetener.
How Much and How Often?
It's easy to keep track of your xylitol intake. The "all xylitol" mints contain approximately one-half gram of xylitol per mint, while each piece of chewing gum contains from approximately .72 grams up to 1 gram of xylitol. You could begin with as little as two mints four times a day, or 6 pieces of gum spread throughout the day. If used only occasionally or only once a day, xylitol will NOT be fully effective.
Use [xylitol-containing products] immediately after eating and clearing the mouth by swishing with water, if possible. Between meals, replace ordinary chewing gum, breath mints or toothpaste with comparable xylitol products.
In addition to the dental benefits of xylitol, research suggests that xylitol can help prevent transmission of dental infections from a mother to her newborn infant. Xylitol helps emerging teeth become well mineralized and almost impervious to decay.
Copyright © 1996 by Advanced Developments, Inc. XYLITOL Sweeten Your Smile by John Peldyak, DMD