When we eat sugar, bacteria in our mouth are able to feed off of it, turning the environment in our mouth slightly acidic. Over time, this wears away at the enamel. Xylitol is used in pediatric dentistry to reduce this bacterial decay. Using Xylitol after we eat—and encouraging our children to do the same—can decrease the effects of decay and keep the pH of the mouth balanced.
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a non-sugar sweetener found in many places in nature. It is safe to use, is FDA approved, and is a popular sugar substitute. Xylitol works by making it more difficult for the bacteria in the mouth to adhere to the teeth. This keeps the teeth from coming in contact with the acid the bacteria produces.
Xylitol also helps to repair tooth enamel by stimulating the production of calcium and phosphate in the saliva, which then moves into the teeth. Weak, calcium-deficient enamel hardens and becomes strong again with continued exposure to Xylitol.
Where Can Xylitol Be Found?
Xylitol is gleaned from nature. It is derived from the fibrous parts of plants and added to our products as a sweetener and to strengthen teeth. It is commonly found in gum. In fact, chewing gum containing Xylitol is the easiest way to give your teeth a regular dose of it. For children who are too young to chew gum, Xylitol can also be found in toothpaste, candy, and dental floss. Ask your Renton, WA pediatric dentist what they recommend as a good source of Xylitol for your children.
How is Xylitol Best Used?
Using Xylitol only once or infrequently will not have much of an impact on your teeth. Every time you eat, your teeth are exposed to new sugars and bacteria which can cause damage. Using Xylitol at least 3-5 times per day will protect your teeth from these bacteria for a long enough amount of time that your teeth can begin to make repairs. Making a habit of chewing gum containing Xylitol after each meal is the most effective way to gain exposure.
Encouraging young children to brush after every meal using a Xylitol toothpaste, and giving them sweets containing Xylitol will help to keep their teeth strong. Xylitol has a naturally sweet taste, so it shouldn’t be too hard to convince children to use products containing it. Xylitol is not a replacement for fluoride, but works great in conjunction with fluoride to improve the overall health of children’s teeth in the long run.