I wanted to share some good news in the world of dental care, just in case some of you haven't heard. It's about the "Good Sugar" called xylitol. Xylitol is an all-natural sugar that has tons of health benefits. Not only is it good for your teeth, but it is now being used to fight bacterial infections in a number of different ways!
Xylitol isn't an artificial sweetener. It is a natural sugar that's found in fruits, vegetables, tree bark, and made in the human body. It has only 2.4 calories per gram, with 40 percent less calories than other carbohydrates.
How does it help your teeth?
Well, tooth decay is caused by bacteria. Bacteria feed off of sugar, they grow, they produce acid (which breaks down teeth) and they stick to teeth, forming what's called a biofilm.
This biofilm is what we remove mechanically by brushing and flossing our teeth. When this biofilm is allowed to remain on teeth, it has a cumulative effect, like a snowball rolling down a snow covered hill. New plaque sticks to the biofilm, making it thicker and stickier and eventually hard. Then it can only be removed by scraping and a professional cleaning, which most dental patients love!
Xylitol, however, cannot be used by bacteria as food. Therefore, bacteria stop growing, do not produce the slime leading to the biofilm and just slide off of the teeth!
How can you get xylitol? There are many ways. Chewing gum, mints, candy, toothpaste, oral gels, mouthrinses, and mouth sprays. The key to making xylitol use the most effective is repetition. Using any of the above, several times a day, will ensure that there is a constant supply of the decay fighting xylitol working away in your mouth.
A simple internet search can show you where and how to get xylitol products. But remember that many "sugar free" products have xylitol mixed with other artificial sweeteners, such as sorbitol, aspartame or sucralose. Keep in mind that adding these will reduce the xylitol benefits. Try to stick to those products with only xylitol as the sweetener.
Of course, continue to brush and floss regularly. But adding xylitol can be an effective and fun way to reduce tooth decay in children and adults.
Source: Xylitol The Good Sugar by Trisha E. O'Hehir, RDH, MS August 2012 Dentaltown Magazine
Dr. Parisa Zarbafian is a practicing dentist in Foothill Ranch. You can reach her at office@ProSmileDentistry.com