The Sugar That’s Good For Your Teeth

Author: Bonnie Lott, BS, RDH

It is widely understood that decay in teeth is caused by the carbohydrates or sugars that we consume in our diet. Naturally occurring bacteria breakdown sugar and turn it into acids, which then weakens the enamel of the teeth. But did you know that there is one sugar that is actually good for your teeth?! Xylitol is a natural sweetener derived from plants that is equal in sweetness to sugar. It is a sugar alcohol and is used as a sugar substitute which can be found in chewing gum, toothpaste, confections, nasal spray, and dietary supplements. Bacteria in the mouth are unable to digest xylitol, thereby reducing the number of acid producing bacteria and helping to keep a neutral pH level in the mouth. Xylitol prevents bacteria from sticking to the teeth, resulting in less plaque. It has virtually no effect on blood sugar and
insulin levels and has 40 % fewer calories than sugar.

For the amount of xylitol to be at decay preventing levels, it must be listed as the first ingredient on food labels. Health food stores are usually a good source for xylitol products, as well as several companies online. Xylitol has been approved for safety by the US FDA, but only for human consumption. Beware of your pets consuming products with xylitol, especially dogs, as it can be life-threatening! Always check your peanut butter before letting your dog eat any, as xylitol is now added to many brands of peanut butter!

In order to maintain optimal dental health, remember to brush thoroughly twice a day, floss once a day, limit your exposure to sweets, and chew xylitol gum! Visit your dentist and hygienist regularly to keep your smile beautiful!