Treat Your Sweet Tooth with Xylitol!
Did you know that we encourage our patients to eat sweets? We encourage our patients to enjoy sweets made with Xylitol, a naturally occurring sugar alcohol derived from birch trees. Xylitol may be used in replace of conventional sugar, but has a few advantages over conventional sugar.
For one, xylitol has a relatively low glycemic index. Xylitol has a glycemic index of 7 versus 100 for conventional sugar.
The main reason why we love xylitol, as dentists and dental hygienists, is because it helps prevent tooth decay.
We all have hundreds of species of bacteria that colonize our mouths. A few of those species of bacteria are largely responsible for tooth decay or cavities. When you eat, sugar is introduced into your mouth and those bacteria feed on the sugar creating acid as a byproduct. The acid then sits on your tooth surfaces if not cleaned off and contributes to mineral loss from your teeth.
Minerals are what make your teeth strong and hard. When acid is repeatedly exposed to tooth surfaces and minerals are lost, your teeth begin to soften and eventually a small cavitation or "cavity" results in your tooth. Cavities are an infection of the tooth and if allowed to progress without intervention have the potential to pose a real threat to your overall health.
Xylitol cannot be "digested" by the bacteria that cause cavities. In fact, xylitol actually causes the bacteria that cause cavities to die, preventing the acid production and encouraging the good bacteria in your mouth to flourish instead.
It is recommended that 5 - 10 grams of xylitol be consumed over the course of a few exposures each day to optimize the "anti-cavity" benefits of this sugar. This can be achieved through several ways. Xylitol is available in gums, mints, candy and even as a granulated sugar.
Ice Cubes gum is one of the only types of gum that can be found in grocery stores and supermarkets that contain a significant amount of xylitol (approximately 1 gram per piece of gum). If you were to chew 2 pieces of gum at a time 3 times per day you would reach the optimal therapeutic level to help prevent cavities.
A favorite of many of our young patients are xylitol lollipops. We give all of our pediatric dental patients a Dr. John's xylitol lollipop at the end of their appointment - as long as mom and dad approve of course! They taste delicious and one lollipop contains 9 grams of xylitol. Dr. John's also makes an assortment of other candies, mints and gum for children and adults. You can check Dr. John's products at https://www.drjohns.com/.
One last way that we recommend patients reach their 5 to 10 grams of xylitol a day is by using the granulated form of xylitol in their coffee or tea. Granulated xylitol can even be used to cook by substituting it for conventional granulated sugar using a 1:1 ratio. Using xylitol in your coffee is a great way to get the advantages of xylitol because if you tend to sip your coffee, it exposes the bacteria in your mouth to the xylitol over a longer period of time than if you were to use the granulated form in a cookie or something that you would be more likely to consume quickly.
More is not always better with xylitol. For many people, consuming amounts of xylitol in excess of the therapeutic range (5 to 10 grams) can cause stomach aches. We recommend you find a way that you can consume a few grams of xylitol a few times a day.
FOR THOSE OF YOU WITH PETS: keep xylitol out of reach of your pets. Certain pets, especially dogs cannot digest xylitol and it can be very dangerous for them if consumed.