Xylitol is a natural sweetener that comes from many different plant materials. It is a widely used sugar substitute and in many sugar free products.
Unlike sugar it doesn’t break down and thus can help keep a neutral pH level in the mouth. Tooth decay occurs when bacteria process the sugars we eat. Foods containing ordinary sugar, feed the bacteria in our mouths giving them energy to multiply and make acids. These acids are what weaken and demineralize enamel on teeth beginning the process that causes tooth decay or cavities. Bacteria are unable to digest xylitol and therefore unable to multiply and produce acids. The pH level then stays more neutral and the breakdown of enamel is less likely to occur. The bacteria also don’t stick to the surfaces of the teeth as well after consuming the xylitol.
Less bacteria = less acid = healthier teeth!
Some research even shows that xylitol can help to repair damaged enamel. The salvia in our mouth is protective in itself, but stimulated saliva in particular contains all the necessary components to repair the demineralized enamel areas. Salvia containing xylitol is more alkaline and with saliva pH levels above 7 the calcium and phosphate salts in our saliva start to move into enamel areas that are weak. Therefore the soft, calcium deficient enamel sites begin to re-harden.
Xylitol is a lower calorie alternative than table sugar…in fact approximately 33% less. It is also absorbed by the body more slowly and doesn’t contribute to high blood sugar levels or hyperglycemia caused by insufficient insulin responses. This specific characteristic of xylitol is what has proven beneficial for those with metabolic syndrome as well. It can also be used as a sweetener in medications, chewing gum and pastilles.
Many dry mouth sufferers try to moisten the mouth by sucking on mint’s and hard candies or by chewing gum. Choosing a sugar free alternative that is sweetened with xylitol can help with dry mouth symptoms and also help decrease the risk of developing cavities.
Xylitol has no known toxicity in humans; however is life threatening for dogs who have consumed foods with xylitol greater than 100 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight. Consumption of 500 milligrams per kilogram of body weight can cause liver failure leading to the death of the dog. For humans though xylitol, being like most sugar alcohols, may have a laxative effect. Some studies have reported adaptation (an increase of laxative threshold) occurring after several weeks of regular intake of the xylitol products. Keep in mind consumption in excess quantities can cause abdominal discomfort with temporary gastrointestinal side effects such as bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea.
Some companies with available products:
- Xylitol USA
Types of products include:
- Sweeteners (individual packets, or in bulk quantity)
- Candies and mints
- Nasal Sprays
- Chewing Gum
- Mouth Rinses