Dental health hinges on two main things, what you put in your mouth and how you clean it. It is well known that sugar is a leading cause of dental decay and disease. For decades dentists have advised to steer clear of sugar for your teeth and whole body wellness. Denying the harmful bacteria in the mouth the food it needs to create acid and plaque prevents cavities from being formed and gum disease from developing. To wean off sugar, many sugar substitutes have been created, however one stands above the rest because it not only provides a sweet taste, it also aids in battling tooth decay. It is called Xylitol, and it is an amazing new addition to a dental toolbox.
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is an alcohol that occurs naturally in most plants, specifically fruits and vegetables. It is extracted for commercial use from both corn cobs and birch trees. Once extracted it actually closely resembles sugar in appearance and flavor; however, it contains 40 percent fewer calories and 75 percent less carbohydrates per serving. While this Jacksonville dentist is interested in anything that may help promote total body wellness, the calorie count is not what make xylitol so amazing. Xylitol is so amazing in our book because it actually protects teeth from developing cavities and can repair damaged tooth enamel as well.
How does Xylitol Help Teeth?
Fist xylitol helps teeth because it doesn’t hurt them. Sugar is broken down by bacteria and creates an acidic environment in the mouth. Acid and harmful bacteria create a buildup of plaque and tartar that cause dental decay and gum disease. Xylitol, on the other hand, is not broken down by the harmful bacteria and dose not affect the pH in the mouth. Bacteria cannot grow and transform into plaque and tarter because they have nothing to “eat” to produce the harmful environment where decay and disease run rampant. It provides a sweet taste without the harmful side effects.
Additionally after time, the use of xylitol products has shown to change the quality of the bacteria in the mouth. Eventually less and less harmful bacteria are able to survive on the surface of the tooth because there is nothing for it to feed on.
But it doesn’t stop there, Xylitol even aids the body in repairing enamel that was damaged by sugar. Xylitol increases salivary flow, which is necessary to help clean the mouth of excess sugars. Saliva is one of the most important natural ways you can prevent cavities because it is constantly moving bacteria from the teeth. Saliva that contains a lot of sugar can have a lower, more acidic pH. Saliva containing xylitol has a higher, more basic, pH. When saliva has a basic pH, calcium and phosphate salts found in saliva are able to bind to the parts of the teeth that have been damaged and begin to repair a cavity prone area.
Where Can I Find Xylitol?
In nature xylitol is found in fruits and vegetables, however it is most helpful in the commercial form that is extracted from corn cobs or birch trees. You can find this form of xylitol in sugar substitutes, toothpastes, sugar free gums, mouthwashes, certain candies and mints, and even in floss.
How Do I Use Xylitol?
Xylitol is very easy to use. You can begin by using it as a substitute for sugar in your diet. Decreasing the amount of sugar you consume is always beneficial to your dental and whole-body health. Next, to instantly reap the benefits of xylitol chew a sugar-free gum containing xylitol after every meal. This will stimulate the salivary glands to produce saliva right after you eat, washing away sugar and starving the harmful bacteria. Five grams of xylitol is considered optimal for cavity prevention, additionally if you are consuming gum or mints for the beneficial effects of xylitol, make sure that it is listed as one of the first ingredients.
Preventing cavities is extremely important for dental health. In addition to brushing for two minutes twice a day, flossing once a day, and scheduling regular checkups with Dr. Shields, adding xylitol to your oral health routine can be extremely beneficial. If you have any other questions about how xylitol can help you and your family prevent the development of cavities, call our Jacksonville office today.