The sugar substitute xylitol is commonly found in sugar free candies, gum, and household sugar alternatives. Xylitol is a natural derivative of fruits, vegetables, plant fibers, and is known in the dental community as the best prevention to tooth decay.
According to dental healthcare professionals it is an extremely beneficial line of defense against cavities. The regular use of oral xylitol significantly reduces the likelihood of cavities because it affects the bacterial composition of the mouth even in small doses. In fact regular small amounts is the best way to negotiate with the cavity causing bacteria on our teeth.
The mouth naturally contains many types of bacteria that thrive on the sugar found in food and drinks. Cavity causing bacteria quickly feed on the sugar and form bacterial plaque which is a sticky film that coats your teeth. As plaque hardens it becomes increasingly difficult to remove and is a great place for bad bacteria to hide.
When plaque remains on your teeth acid produced by bacteria will begin to remove the minerals which makes up you the hard outer enamel of your teeth. The tiny holes in your enamel are the first stage of a cavity. After the enamel is worn away, bacteria and acid reach down to the next layer of your teeth which is softer and less resistant to acid.
For over forty years clinical studies have been conducted to find the effects of xylitol on the ecology of the oral cavity. A series of studies were conducted on children and adolescents during which samples of plaque and saliva were examined. It was determined that a daily dose of 3.4 grams of xylitol was sufficient in changing the consistency of bacteria.
During another clinical study conducted on children ranging in age from 7 to 12, the subjects were asked to continue their regular routine and chew gum three times daily containing a total dose of 6.0 grams of xylitol. The results showed that the amount of plaque and the production of lactic acid dramatically declined throughout the duration of the trial period. After four weeks of continued xylitol exposure the amount of cavity causing bacteria in the mouth had decreased by a third. The conclusion of studies and research on the effect of xylitol on oral ecology are consistent; what xylitol says to these bacteria is essentially “shape up or ship out” and they do both. Researchers and oral healthcare professionals worldwide recommend including xylitol as a part of a well-balanced daily routine especially for those with a high risk for tooth decay.
There are many ways to incorporate xylitol into your daily life. The first such study was to swap out xylitol for sugar in the diet. Doing so eliminated all progress in tooth decay over the two year study. Dietary use, however, opens one to the GI side effects. Because it is not absorbed as easily it pulls water into the bowel and can lead to cramping and watery loose stools. This itself can be beneficial for some, but one does get used to it so the benefit is short lived.
The most popular and effective method of oral xylitol exposure is the use of products containing xylitol that actively stimulate the production of saliva such as chewing gum or mints. A flow of excess saliva helps to wash away left-over food particles, removing the main food source (sugar) of cavity causing bacteria.
Another effective way to introduce xylitol into your life is to swap out your oral care products. Many oral care products are available which feature xylitol as a main ingredient including toothpaste, floss, and oral rinse. By making a complete switch to oral care products with xylitol your mouth will have a full arsenal of cavity fighting weapons, and you will be using them more frequently – and that is important.
Perhaps the most enjoyable way to orally introduce xylitol to your routine is to enjoy a few pieces of sugar free candy featuring xylitol as the sweetener. There are tasty natural treats that are not only delicious but fight cavities at the same time. Then you can finally say that you’re eating candy for your health.
Xylitol is also available in its crystalline form for baking, cooking, or even using in your daily cup of coffee. Not only is xylitol a cavity fighting super ingredient, but it’s also a low carb and low calorie sweetener. As a simple sugar substitute xylitol can be used in almost any recipe you can imagine. When using xylitol as a sugar substitute in your recipes, xylitol can be matched for sugar cup for cup, but be aware of the GI effects mentioned above.
For optimal results a daily exposure or intake of six grams of xylitol should be distributed over many times. Dental experts recommend five oral exposures each day to receive the maximum oral benefits of xylitol. When you’re shopping for xylitol products such as gum, mints, or sweet treats, it is essential to read the label. Although xylitol may be listed in the ingredients, other less expensive sweeteners that don’t fight cavities may be used first.
Products that don’t contain other sweeteners are the most efficient. You will often find products exclusively featuring xylitol in health food stores or in the natural product aisle of your local market. Natural product brands have increasingly begun incorporating xylitol in their health care products.
Switching out your simple everyday products for those containing xylitol is a small action with big results. After adding xylitol to your daily routine your dentist will be asking you what you’ve been doing differently to improve your oral health.
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