Xylitol is a natural five-carbon sugar obtained from birch trees.The name relates to the word "xylose" (wood sugar) from which xylitol was first made, and which is, in turn, derived from the particular structure (xylene) of hardwood from which xylose can be obtained.
It keeps the sucrose molecule from binding with MS (Mutans Streptococci)*. Furthermore, MS cannot ferment (metabolize) xylitol.
Thus xylitol reduces MS by altering their metabolic pathways and enhances remineralization and helps arrest dentinal caries. It is usually recommended that a patient chew a piece of xylitol gum after eating or snacking for 5 to 30 minutes.
Chewing any sugar-free gum after meals reduces the acidogenicity of plaque because chewing stimulates salivary flow, which improves the buffering of the pH drop that occurs after eating.
*Mutan Streptococci: What in the world is M.Streptococci? Ans: M.Streptococci and other lactobacilli are bacterias that can produce great amounts of acids (acidogenic), are tolerant of acidic environments (aciduric), are vigorously stimulated by sucrose, and appear to be the primary organisms associated with caries in man (and woman).
Did you know? Xylitol has 40% less calories and 70% less carbohydrates than table sugar.
Numerous studies have confirmed that xylitol is an effective way to prevent tooth decay and fight cavities. It's efficacy however, is dose-related, hence care must be taken to use products with adequate dose levels.
Current practice includes chewing two pieces of gum containing a total of 1 gram of xylitol 3-6 times daily, preferably after meals and snacks. However, do keep in mind that most chewing gums have a laxative effect. (Please google up laxatives if you are cautious)
Potential Benefits of xylitol
- Decrease in caries rates, increment, and/or onset
- Maternal (Pregnant mother) consumption of xylitol may reduce the acquisition of MS and dental caries by their children.
Potential Harms of xylitol
(For children) If you're a parents, you will need to control the amount of xylitol that your child consumes. Xylitol is safe for children when consumed in therapeutic doses for dental caries prevention. Common side effects that may occur with the use of xylitol are gas and osmotic diarrhea. These symptoms usually occur at higher dosages and will subside once xylitol consumption is stopped. Xylitol should be introduced slowly, over a week or more, to acclimate the body to xylitol, especially in young children. And please do not feed your child which is younger < than 4 years old chewing gums for the risk of choking. (use xylitol powder instead)
Several different national dental associations have endorsed xylitol as a tool to support good dental health. One study published in the Journal of Dental Research in 2006 concluded that daily use of xylitol lowered streptococci levels by ten times as much as those that did not. Limiting sugar intake is also a good way to prevent cavities and maintain healthy teeth and gums and xylitol is a tasty, healthy alternative.
In a paper published in the Journal of Massachusetts Dental Society 2 years ago, it was also concluded that "Xylitol has been shown to be effective in the prevention of caries when consumed in quantities as little as 8 grams per day".
Other potential benefits of xylitol
Xylitol has a low glycemic index, has little effect on blood sugar levels and does not require insulin to be metabolized. This makes it a potentially ideal substitute for cane sugar and other sugar substitutes for people suffering from diabetes or at high risk of developing diabetes.
In addition to fighting MS, reports suggest that xylitol may help to boost bacterial response systems in the body and may even fight off Candida yeast and prevent oral infections. It raises the levels of activity in white blood cells, which are responsible for much of the body's resistance to bacteria and infection.
Upper Respiratory Support
Studies show that xylitol may be an effective way to prevent and treat ear infections and other upper respiratory problems. Chewing gum that contains xylitol may be particularly effective because the process of chewing clears the ear cavities of wax buildup, while the xylitol helps prevent bacterial infection. Using xylitol nasal spray may help treat asthma, sinus infections and allergies.
According to a Finnish study, xylitol supplements may be a good treatment for osteoporosis. Researchers found that the xylitol improved bone density and lowered the percentage of bone loss in lab rats. Human trials are necessary to determine the effectiveness of xylitol for people with osteoporosis and other bone disease.
Xylitol has less calories than regular sugar, which is one of the primary contributors to weight problems and obesity in society today. While too much xylitol can still contribute to weight gain, it is a much healthier option than regular cane sugar for dietary purposes.
So next time your dentist askes you to get some xylitol to chew on, you won't have to ask him why.