By Dr. Elizabeth Vella Caruana (dentist) and Alexandra Rabalski, (JCDA Oasis Intern)
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that has attracted much attention as an alternative sweetener. It is found naturally in low amounts in fruits and vegetables, and is also synthesized in small amounts by our body as a by-product. Xylitol-containing chewing gums, lozenges, and mints are widely advertised with claims of beneficial effects on dental health.
But how does xylitol improve oral health?
Bacteria are the main culprits when it comes to dental caries. Bacteria stick to plaque on our teeth and react with sugars from food or drink that we ingest. The breakdown of the sugars results in acid production, which creates a cavity. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that the bacteria cannot digest and thus bacteria are prevented from creating the acids that damage our teeth.
Studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects of xylitol-containing products on parameters involved in caries development:
- Stimulation of salivary secretions (controlling pH and antibacterial cleansing effect)
- Decreased plaque build up
- Suppression of bacteria (Streptococcus mutans)
Will you encourage your patients to incorporate Xylitol-containing products as an adjunctive form of treatment to better improve their oral health?
- Thabuis, et al. (2013). Effects of maltitol and xylitol chewing-gums on parameters involved in dental caries development. European Journal of Paediatric Dentistry, 14 (4); 303-308.
- Mäkinen, K. (2011). Sugar alcohol sweeteners as alternatives to sugar with special consideration of xylitol. Medical Principles and Practice, 20 (4); 303-320.